By: Blonde Two

Peace and quiet in our countryside

If asked why we love the outdoors and being in open spaces, most of us would include the words ‘peace’ and ‘quiet’ in our explanations. But have you ever wondered where Britain’s quietest places are? Or what exactly it is that disturbs our peace?

Noise pollution in England

I recently came across two very interesting maps on the CPRE (previously the Campaign to Protect Rural England, now the Countryside Charity) website. They show visual and and noise intrusion in England in the early 1990s and the same in 2007. I would recommend taking a look for yourself. The comparisons are interesting. As might be expected our major cities are clearly outlined on both but it is from our traditionally rural areas that peace and relaxation appear to be receding.

Increasing visual and noise intrusion

Take the Southwest as an example (I’m afraid I only count Devon and Cornwall as the Southwest). On the 1990s map you can clearly see areas of intrusion around cities and larger towns including Exeter, Plymouth, Torbay (hopefully it wasn’t my arrival that caused the disturbance) and Penzance, and around major roads. On the 2007 map some smaller towns, including Bude, Tavistock and St Austell also show intruded areas.

New development, less countryside

So what is it that’s caused these subtle but notable changes? Why in ten years did peaceful St Austell change to noisy St Austell? Well the maps show areas, in which the countryside is disturbed by noise and visual impact from manmade structures. These include motorways and A roads (the A30 has grown), urban areas (towns have spread and new towns have been built) and airports (well at least these have been quiet for a while).

Tranquility is a ‘natural resource’

The CPRE argue that tranquility is a ‘natural resource’, and there is no doubt most of us value it highly. You might be interested to hear that tranquility wasn’t given recognition in national planning policy until 2012. In 2015 the CPRE investigated the presence and absence of tranquility policies in 340 planning authorities. Their Give Peace a Chance report makes interesting reading. In urban areas or those with no designated protected areas only one in seven had those policies in place.

Let’s hope things have changed since then.