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A Brief History of CQC

© Natural England / Nick Turner

Change is constant and it matters to people and places. It is behind the evolution of each and every landscape, and represents a key factor in planning for sustainable development. We need to know how and where change is occurring, and whether change matters or not. Understanding change will help us to ensure that policy is based on sound evidence and decisions are made within a relevant context.

The need for a good understanding of the state of our countryside and the ways in which it is being transformed was emphasised in the 2000 Rural White Paper for England1. Although the White Paper recognised that it was essential to base policy on science and practical experience, it also recognised that there were major gaps in our knowledge about landscape change.

To help understand how the countryside is evolving, the White Paper stressed the need for future monitoring and made a commitment to publish an indicator of change in countryside quality that would take account of such attributes as:

In response to this, the Countryside Agency took up the task of developing such an indicator, working in partnership with Defra, English Nature and English Heritage, through the Countryside Quality Counts (CQC) project.

The CQC project aimed, for the first time, to construct an indicator of change in countryside quality across the Joint Character Areas (JCAs) of England, based on analysis of the transformation in a wide range of landscape features that were grouped into the following categories:

The project began in May 2002 and following a period of methodological development and consultation, the first assessment of change was published in the State of the Countryside Report (June 2004). Results of the first assessment can be seen here.

Following a period of methodological review (see Phase 3 Report), a second assessment of change was embarked upon in the Autumn of 2005. Two extensive periods of consultation followed and resulted in the publication of an assessment of change for the period 1999-2003 in the Spring of 2007.

The CQC project will continue to be supported by Natural England, English Heritage and Defra. Consideration is currently being given to a third assessment of change for the period 2004-2009.


1 Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (2000) Our Countryside: The Future - A Fair Deal for Rural England (Rural White Paper)