A MAJOR new campaign to preserve the character of the English countryside was launched today (June 23) by the newly re-named Campaign to Protect Rural England - better known by thousands of country-lovers as the CPRE.
One of the UK's oldest and best-established rural charities, the one-time Council for the Protection (and before that the Preservation) of Rural England thinks that the new name will give it "a sharper, clearer identity."
And in its first campaign under the new title, it has chosen a particularly difficult task: just how do we define the "character" of a countryside and its market towns and villages which vary so greatly from region to region?
To try to pin down this elusive trait, the CPRE has issued a new report called the Lie of the Land, which is described as a "call to arms" to analyse "the importance and value of this diversity and the threats to it."
And these threats are growing by the day, making many areas looks the same or "homogenised."
Reasons for this are new roads, housing estates and other developments, all of which look the same wherever they are. The report is particularly scathing of the way that market towns are losing their individuality because of the opening of identical supermarkets, High Street chain stores, and the offices of banks and other financial institutions.
CPRE head of rural policy Tom Oliver complains: "Whether it is a death by a thousand cuts of through individual knockout blows, again and again the character of the English countryside is under attack as never before."