From the roar of aircraft to the drone of giant wind turbines, it is getting harder to find peace and quiet in the countryside.
Now a map reveals just how much our rural communities are being spoilt.
It shows that more than half of England is now disturbed by the sight and sound of nearby roads, towns, electricity pylons, aircraft and trains.
Northumberland remains the most unspoilt county in England, with just 17 per cent of its land ruined by buildings, transport and noise.
Herefordshire and the Isles of Scilly come second and third, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The charity warns that, at the current rate of loss, the last havens of peace and quiet could have vanished by the end of the century.
CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: “These maps show what the future may hold if we don’t sufficiently value our wonderful rural landscapes.
“As the shadow of intrusion stretches further and wider, the peace and quiet we need is harder to find.”
The ‘tranquillity map’ excludes anywhere within two-and-a-half miles of a power station, two miles from a major road or town and half a mile from a main railway line.
It also rules out proximity to power lines, wind farms and large villages.
Since the early 1990s, around 320 square miles of tranquil countryside has been lost every year – the equivalent to an area the size of Greater London every two years.
At this rate the remaining 50 per cent of undisturbed countryside in England could be blighted by 2087.
In the early 1960s, just 26 per cent of England was disturbed by “urban intrusion”. By the early 1990s this had grown to 41 per cent, while this year it is around 50 per cent.
Mr Spiers added: “The findings are a wake-up call for the Government. The impact of development spreads way beyond its immediate footprint. More must be done to protect what is left from further fragmentation.”
The Government plans to build another three million homes by 2020 and is pushing for more wind farms across the countryside.
The largest remaining areas of unspoilt countryside are mostly in the national parks – Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Lake District and Northumberland.
Shropshire and the North Pennines are also largely free from noise and eyesores.
By David Derbyshire
9 September 2007
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