A CAMPAIGN to protect, promote and enhance the countryside is celebrating its 80th year.

The Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomed its new chief executive, Crispin Truman, as well as its president, Edward Fox, to its annual general meeting last week, marking its 80th anniversary.

The actor read some poems, including 'Dorset' by John Betjeman, celebrating the county and its countryside to an audience of about 100 people.

Crispin, former chief executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, spoke of the challenges facing the CPRE as it campaigns on many fronts to protect the countryside, particularly the need to protect green belts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) from inappropriate housing developments.

He wants to see 'a more bottom-up community-led sensitive approach to housing from government, rather than the current adversarial top-down one.' CPRE would also encourage the government to adopt a land-use strategy for England which currently does not exist, unlike Scotland.

Richard Nicholls, the chairman of Dorset CPRE’s trustees, spoke of the problems facing Dorset in particular. The countryside, green belts and AONBs are under threat from development while little provision was being made for infrastructure, such as public transport, GP surgeries and improved roads. There was far too little affordable housing.

He said: "There should be the right housing in the right places, for the right people in particular young people”. He also raised concern over the loss of subsidies to farmers resulting from Brexit, with the threat of the industrialisation of farming and the adverse impact on the countryside.

He concluded the meeting by reinforcing the message that CPRE stands for the same things now as when the branch was opened in 1937 - to retain a beautiful, diverse countryside for the benefit of everyone, wherever they live. He said: "Dorset has a countryside that can give us the big views, open skies and tranquillity we all require, and also a vibrant, productive countryside which provides good livelihoods and the natural products we will need, like food and fresh water. A great deal has been lost, but Dorset still has a glorious countryside which needs CPRE’s care and protection."