In a presentation that took place in London at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) 2012 annual general meeting, the former Poet Laureate and new CPRE President Sir Andrew Motion honoured Gravesham environmental campaigner, Alex Hills, with this year’s Marsh Christian Trust award for Countryside Champion of the Year, along with a cheque for £500 .
Alex Hills won the award following his tireless, and often single handed, work to defend the greenbelt around Gravesham from many inappropriate development proposals and a poorly thought out Local Plan by Gravesham Borough Council as it was based on the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) not the final published guidance.
Alex helped to inspire local residents, spoke at local meetings and brought together disparate action groups to form them into a cohesive campaigning force. He organised marches and publicity stunts and ensured that the issue was never out of the local press during the time that the strategy was open for consultation.
On presenting the award, Sir Andrew Motion said: “We are fortunate to enjoy a unique and precious landscape that has been formed over thousands of years. There is something primitive about our connection with the countryside and it continues to change and evolve, which is a good thing if managed in a sustainable way. However, the quality of our countryside is no accident, and maintaining and protecting it no easy task.
“It takes dedicated people like Alex Hills to care and look after it. The work he does is not glamorous or high-profile and the results are all too often taken for granted. That’s why I am proud to present this award and recognise this fantastic contribution.”
When looking at Alex Hills’ nomination, the judges were particularly impressed by his tremendous enthusiasm throughout the campaign. Of particular note was the fact that he had managed to achieve all that he has while juggling a full time career and dealing with a family illness.
When told that he had won the 2012 Marsh Countryside Champion Award, Alex Hills said: “It’s a great honour to receive this award. Although completely unexpected, it is gratifying to have my campaign recognised nationally.
“I love our local countryside but when it came under threat from such a poor Local Plan I realised that if someone didn’t do something, we would lose large chunks of it. I was proud to head up a team of fantastic residents. The Battle is won but not the war to save the greenbelt. I am sure we will continue to be factual, be bold, be imaginative and ultimately be victorious.”