THE Earl of Malmesbury, President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in Hampshire hosted a reception at Avington Park near Winchester to celebrate 50 years of the charity’s work in protecting the Hampshire countryside and its landscape heritage.

The branch works at a grass-roots level to protect and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy.

It is part of the national CPRE organisation which marks 90 years of campaigning for England’s countryside in 2016.

Among the guests at the 50th birthday reception were many of the long-serving volunteers, supporters, corporate sponsors and partners who have contributed to the work and achievements of CPRE in Hampshire over the years.

Dee Haas, county branch chairman, highlighted some of the key successes in Hampshire, including creation of the South Downs National Park, protecting unspoilt coastline at Dibden Bay in the New Forest National Park, and defending against threats to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and locally valued landscapes.

CPRE has a wide remit and other successes in Hampshire include for dark skies, litter free lanes, tranquillity, local food, sustainable transport for rural communities and Brownfield First.

Ms Haas said: “It is through my work as a landscape architect with urban communities that I formed the view that green spaces and access to the countryside are not a luxury but a necessity for human wellbeing.

"As our cities sprawl out, covering green fields with faceless housing estates, people’s access to countryside becomes more and more difficult and it is this which leads me to the belief that we need to counter the effects of unrestricted growth in our beautiful county.

"We understand that rural communities need affordable housing and that if we build on brownfield sites, we can save many green fields from development.

"We believe that one of the best ways to encourage urban regeneration and prevent urban sprawl in the south of the county is to create a tract of Green Belt along the north side of Fareham, Portsmouth and Southampton, creating a buffer for the South Downs National Park and around Eastleigh and the south of Winchester to the New Forest National Park.”

The Earl of Malmesbury thanked Sarah Bullen for allowing the charity to use the venue and acknowledged the support of NFU Mutual for their sponsorship of the event and for their support over many years.

CPRE Hampshire has a branch office in Winchester run by a small staff team and is active across the county with six voluntary district groups.

CPRE is a membership organisation and depends entirely on public support.