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MORE than half of England's countryside is at risk from proposals to reform the planning system, claim campaigners.
Maps published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) suggest 55% of England's countryside will face an increased threat of development.
The draft National Planning Policy Framework failed to recognise the intrinsic value of the countryside, the CPRE claimed.
A national map, which can be downloaded here, shows areas at risk equate to almost three-and-a-half times the size of Wales.
At most risk is countryside in the East Midlands with 73% of land outside nationally recognised designations, such as National Parks and Green Belt
The East Midlands is followed by the East of England with 66% undesignated.
Fiona Howie, CPRE head of planning, said she was pleased the reforms would retain protections for specially designated countryside.
But the government had provided no reassurance that the final NPPF would recognise the value of the wider, undesignated countryside.
The CPRE was not seeking national policy that would prevent all development but undesignated areas made up more than half of the rural landscape.
Consideration was needed to avoid damaging the character of rural areas by making it easier for inappropriate, speculative building to take place.
"Decision makers must be encouraged to take account of the intrinsic value of the wider countryside when considering development proposals.
"The imminent changes to the planning system should ensure that it is not only the specially designated areas that are valued."
The maps showed that many of England's most attractive landscapes were not covered by nationally recognised designations or up to date local plans.
In the absence of a supportive national policy, even local plan protection might not stand up to pressure from inappropriate development proposals.
Ms Howie said: "If ministers value the English countryside as a whole this should be reflected in the new national planning policies.
"It would be risky to rely solely on any local protection for the wider countryside, the status of which is extremely uncertain.
"Without national support, any protection local plans give to the wider countryside is likely to be challenged by developers."
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