New farmers and new small farms can kick-start agricultural revolution

Brexit vote offers chance for farming to become more diverse and environmentally resilient, say countryside campaigners

A new report released on 18th August by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that farming in England needs to become more diverse to prove environmentally resilient and publicly accessible over the coming years [1].

The New model farming paper argues that a more diverse sector – in demographics, farm size and production – would forge a more resilient future that offers rewards beyond food: beautiful landscapes, clean water, abundant wildlife, better flood management and improved carbon storage. It also argues that a post-Brexit settlement along these lines would make clearer the public benefits of huge public investment in farming.


CPRE Farming Foresight report – New farmers and new small farms can kick-start agricultural revolution

The paper suggests that Government should attempt to reverse narrow trends of industrialisation and short-term efficiency that have long inflicted damage on vital natural assets – from landscapes and wildlife to soils and water. Damage to soil is estimated to cost £1.2 billion a year, while populations of farmland birds in England have more than halved in the past 40 years [2].

To arrest this decline in diversity across the sector, CPRE argues that Government should address the bias in policy towards larger farms through the tapering of public funding to benefit smaller farmers. It is currently thought that around 80% of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payment goes to the 20% largest businesses [3].

With 34,000 fewer farms in the UK than there were a decade ago, CPRE also suggests that more land should be made available to new groups of farmers and communities [4].

uk farms2

Graeme Willis, food and farming campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:

“The Government has a great opportunity post-Brexit to determine what farming and the English countryside will look like. Do we really want to continue the pattern of ever larger agri-business, less connected to communities and out of kilter with nature?

“To forge a more resilient future, the Government should encourage a mix of farms that produce different foods for local people and varied, thriving landscapes. The obvious place to start is by redirecting funding to help smaller, more innovative and mixed farms, and by making land available for new farmers to enter the market.”

New model farming is the first in a series of ‘Food and Farming Foresight’ papers from CPREwritten to encourage debate about the future of farming. The paper also suggests Government could:

  • encourage more dynamism and diversity in farming through a community right to bid, and a transparent register of landholdings;
  • encourage the use of low cost technologies and techniques to benefit all farmers;
  • and ensure that a much higher proportion of public funds are directly linked to delivering public benefits [5].


Notes to editors

There are case studies of good farming practice in the report.

[1] New model farming: resilience through diversity is the first in a series of ‘Food and Farming Foresight’ papers from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

[2] Defra, Cost of soil degradation in England and Wales, 2011, Cranfield University report for Defra, p. 29; CPRE, New model farming, 2016, p. 8, fig. 2.

[3] Figure cited in T. Lang and M. Heasman, Food Wars, 2015, p. 270.

[4] There is declining diversity of farms in the sector. While there are direct public payments to support farm incomes, such finance has not been enough to save thousands of smaller farms. County council-owned farms have dropped in number, as have mixed farms.

In the 1980s, county council-owned farms covered 340,000 acres, but 100,000 acres have since been sold and the number of tenancies has halved. Peter Hetherington reports that the county farm estate still covers some 200,000 acres over 50 council areas with 2,000 tenants. CPRE, New model farming, p. 12.

Just over 10% of all farm businesses are mixed, but numbers are falling. Defra’s Farm Business Surveys from 2000/1 to 2014/15 show that mixed farm business numbers (not holdings) went from 8,499 businesses in 2000 to 6,260 in 2014.

[5] Most public funding via the CAP – around 80-85% (or some £2.3 billion in 2014) – goes directly to farmers and is paid by the hectare for the land they manage. Fifteen to 20% (or £502 million in 2014) pays for agri-environment schemes, where farmers are paid under contract to protect water bodies, safeguard soils, help wildlife thrive and maintain beautiful, healthy landscapes. Defra, Agriculture in the UK 2015, 2016, p. 63.

A big thank you to everyone who supported our fundraising event on 10th July. Fantastic attendance and great to see so many families join in the ‘Ming Vase’ Treasure hunt. The 19th Century Chinese porcelain was found by a group of children.

Thank you also  to the hard working volunteers and everyone who helped in making it such a success.


After a 2 year break the gardens at Waterston Manor will once again be opened to the public on 10th July. Not only can visitors enjoy the spectacular gardens, they can also participate in a treasure hunt for a piece of Chinese porcelain. There will be a large fair with craft and food stalls, live music, a fun dog show and a specialist plant sale. Proceeds from the day will go to Dorset CPRE, the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Please view PDF copy of the full program of activities for Waterston Manor Open Day 10th July.

Katharine Butler, the owner at Waterston Manor has hidden the vase in her garden as a tribute to her father, Sir Michael Butler who amassed the world’s finest collection of 17th century Chinese porcelain and died 2 years ago. She said ‘My father would have been amused by the idea and he believed firmly in the ideals of the CPRE.’ The vase is a 12cm Ming style vase previously in the collection of the Duke of Wellington and bought by Katharine in 2015. It will be placed somewhere in the 5 acres of gardens and finders will be keepers.

The privately owned gardens and house, which are not usually open to the public, were the inspiration for Weatherbury Farm in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. And during the day there will be a talk by Dr Tony Fincham on ‘Exploring Thomas Hardy’s Wessex’, based upon his new book of the same title from the Wimborne-based Dovecote Press.

Acclaimed author and journalist, Anna Pavord, will also be giving a talk celebrating our British landscape inspired by the tercentenary anniversary of Capability Brown’s death. Her talk, ‘Landscape, A Celebration’ will be free to all visitors.

Fun day for all the family
There will be many stalls selling specialist plants such as David Austin Roses, rare perennials and Plants for Pollinators, a wide variety of food and craft stalls as well as live music from bands such as Howling at the Moon, The Darwins and Harpin’ On. There will be a raffle, a fun dog show and cream teas.

The gardens will be open on 10th July between 10am and 4pm and are at Waterston Manor, Lower Waterston, near Puddletown DT2 7SP. Entry £5 adults,  £1 for children or family ticket £10 (free parking).

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) work to protect, promote and enhance our towns and countryside to make them better places to live, work and enjoy, and to ensure the countryside is protected for now and future generations.

Joint Press Release from Katharine Butler, the Mapperton Preservation Group and Dorset CPRE


Today the High Court of Justice quashed planning permission for the proposed Mapperton Solar Park on land owned by South Dorset MP Richard Drax. This decision is the result of Katharine Butler’s successful application for a Judicial Review of East Dorset District Council’s decision to grant permission for a mega solar farm to be sited on good arable land amongst highly valued heritage assets in an Area of Great Landscape Value. She was supported by the Mapperton Preservation Group (MPG) and the Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Images: Charborough Park and Site of Planned Solar Park in background.

Protestors at Mapperton including Katharine Butler’s father, Sir Michael Butler, who died in December 2013, 2nd to left in front row.

Deputy High Court Judge Rhodri Lewis Price QC agreed with Katharine Butler that East Dorset’s Planning Committee was seriously misled by the Officers’ Report which recommended permission be granted.  The Report admitted that the proposal would do harm to heritage assets but failed to point out that, if this was the case, this would not comply with policies in the Local Plan. The judge has refused appeal.

Over 700 objections were sent to East Dorset District Council last year to protest at what would have been, if built, the second largest solar farm park in Dorset, saying it represented damaging industrialisation of the beautiful countryside here. This was the largest protest ever mounted against a solar installation application in Dorset. The revised proposal came after Good Energy Limited were forced to withdraw an earlier application in the face of a successful legal challenge. The solar park would have covered 106 acres with 90,000 solar PV panels. Local residents formed the Mapperton Preservation Group to object.  Katharine Butler said: “We would not have objected to a solar farm of 40 acres, but it is inappropriate to site an industrially sized project in an Area of Great Landscape Value. The developer is clearly more persuaded by the commercial rather than the environmental arguments.”

Ironically one of the key objections was the adverse impact on the setting and views from Grade II* listed Charborough Park, which is owned by Drax. Pevsner, the acclaimed architectural historian, described the landscaped park as “the most splendid in Dorset”. Grade II* Charborough Tower, which featured in Thomas Hardy’s “Two on a Tower”, would have been affected too. Rupert Hardy, a representative of both MPG and the Dorset CPRE, argues “the vast installation would have  been  a blight on the landscape of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex”. The Dorset Gardens Trust and both local parish councils objected while the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty stated the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment was “significantly flawed”.

Katharine is organising a fund raising event in aid of CPRE on the 10th July at Waterston Manor near Dorchester.

Posted by: dorsetcpre | June 17, 2016

CPRE MAPS – Light Pollution and Dark Skies

Starry skies are one of the great beauties of our countryside – yet they’re in short

supply in many areas, thanks to light pollution from buildings and street lighting. To highlight the problem, CPRE have put together their most detailed maps ever of England’s dark skies. The research includes maps covering district and county council boundaries, National Parks, AONBs and National Character Areas.


CPRE MAPS - England's Light Pollution and Dark Skies

CPRE MAPS – England’s Light Pollution and Dark Skies

Produced by consultants LUC, the new interactive online tool allows users to create and print a map of light pollution in their chosen postcode – invaluable evidence in local planning applications.

The interactive CPRE maps can be found on

The map is divided into areas of 400metres by 400metres and shows the light pollution levels for each one of these; it also displays where regions, counties and districts rank on their light pollution levels compared to others in England.

The interactive maps were produced with satellite images captured at 1.30 am throughout September 2015. They show that West Dorset and North Dorset are in the top 20 darkest districts. Ten of the darkest districts are in the South West, the darkest region in England

Nationwide, the maps show that just 22% of England is untouched by light pollution, and that 53% of our darkest skies are over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Northumberland National Park enjoys 96% pristine night skies, while the South Downs, granted Dark Sky Reserve status in May 2016, is London’s closest expanse of dark skies.

Lesson plans have also been developed for primary school children and can be found on

Older Posts »