Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

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Read CPRE's report The end of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus.

CPRE view

CPRE wants to see a roads network where:

  • the impact of roads on the environment is reduced: road noise is reduced and our roads look more attractive
  • roads are safer for all, including people walking and cycling
  • fewer car journeys need to be made, rather than building more roads for more cars

To help achieve our vision we are campaigning for a national transport policy of ‘smarter travel first’ to make increasing road capacity the option of last resort.

CPRE and roads

When CPRE was set up in 1926, it was very rare for anyone to have a car. People also travelled a lot less than they do today, but when they did travel greater distances public transport was the main option. As cars become more commonplace, in both rural and urban areas, the focus of government policy shifted to road-building.

Visions of the future became about individual travel and a car became a commonplace aspiration. But this started to have a knock-on impact as parts of towns and villages were cut off from each other by major roads.

For rural communities, a key turning point was the Beeching cuts to railway services in the 1960s. Thousands of miles of train tracks were removed and thousands of stations closed, leaving many with no option but to drive.

It was at this time that CPRE started to take issue with the roads that were being built: not only were they destroying landscapes, ruining tranquillity and polluting the air we breathe, but the congestion issues got worse. We had some very notable successes, such as:

  • keeping the M4 out of the Berkshire Downs
  • stopping the Lyndhurst Bypass in the New Forest National Park
  • defeating the proposed Hereford Bypass through the Lugg Meadows

There was also a realisation that new roads filled up quickly with new cars. After significant research, the Government accepted the policy consensus that there was a phenomenon now known as ‘induced traffic’ . In other words, building roads actually creates traffic, rather than relieving it, because when more roads are built, more people are encouraged to drive and they drive more often.

Current issues

Twenty years after it was accepted that major road-building didn’t work, in spite of all the evidence collected previously, the Government is once again trying to build its way out of congestion. In 2014 the £15 billion ‘Road Investment Strategy’ (RIS), the biggest roads programme since the 1970s, was announced. It was hailed as the answer to cutting congestion, improve local economies, all the while ensuring minimal environmental impact. 

Our 2017 report - The end of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus - has now found the most comprehensive evidence to date that building new roads is not the solution. The new research shows that road schemes:

  • generate more traffic – often far above background trends over the longer term
  • lead to permanent and significant environmental and landscape damage
  • show little evidence of economic benefit to local economies

Most of the construction element of the RIS – 1,300 extra miles of road lanes in an already heavily urbanised and densely populated country – is proposed to start at the end of 2019. In order to protect the majesty of the English countryside, the air we breathe and the green places we walk in with our families, we can’t let this happen. CPRE has already secured a Government commitment to produce England’s first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and seen £500 million ring fenced to fight some of the worst effects of existing roads, such as:

  • noise, air and water pollution
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • landscape and biodiversity loss

Now we’re going to fight these old-fashioned and damaging plans for even more tarmac through England’s countryside, by looking beyond roads. Please join us and get involved.


The end of the road?

Motorway at night

Challenging the road-building consensus

Our 2017 report reveals that road-building is failing to provide the congestion relief and economic boost promised, while devastating the environment.

Smarter travel first

Cyclist Oxford copyright Kamyar Adl

To prevent the loss of our beautiful countryside to tarmac we need a transport system that’s smart

Find out more about this issue and why we’re calling for a national transport policy to put smarter travel first.



Hundreds of miles of new and widened roads threaten the countryside

Find out more about this issue and the Government road-building programme.

Better roads


We need better roads rather than bigger ones

Find out more about this issue and how the Government could be making our existing roads better.

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Hay field harvest

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