Outgoing chairman of rural watchdog says preserving farming heritage will be among biggest future challenges

Michael Monk

Michael Monk - Credit: Archant

The out-going chairman of the Cambridgeshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) says his successor will face a huge challenge to preserve the county’s countryside and farming heritage.

Michael Monk, who lives in Great Stukeley, has chaired CPRE’s Cambridgeshire and Peterborough branch for the last six years.

On Thursday, Mr Monk stepped down from the county branch to become CPRE’s new East of England regional chairman.

Mr Monk says the past six years have been both challenging and rewarding.

He said: “We have had to deal with enormous pressures on the Cambridgeshire countryside. This has come from all types of development as a result of the government’s emphasis on opportunities for economic growth in our area.

“Our concern has been that this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. We are looking at plans for over 100,000 additional homes in our area. With that comes the demand for more roads and other infrastructure, all of which eats up our finite and productive farmland.”

He says this pressure has come at a time when the government embarked on a series of revisions to the planning system.

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He said: “These revisions are designed to simplify it or make it easier to get planning permission in order to build more homes regardless of objections from local people or concerns about the environmental damage.

“Whilst we accept the need for more homes, especially affordable ones, development has to be of the right scale and location, which is why we support the principle of re-using brownfield sites as a priority.”

CPRE is looking for a new volunteer to lead the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough branch.

Mr Monk said: “Our new chairman will find that facing these challenges on behalf of our countryside is very rewarding. I also know that he or she will have great help from our band of dedicated volunteers and professional support from our national office staff.

“The CPRE was founded 90 years ago to address concerns about the unplanned explosion of suburban and ribbon development. There is just as great a need for us to be vigilant in protecting our valued countryside and our rural communities today.”