The campaign group said current policy is allowing developers to "bypass local democracy and gain planning permission for large housing developments in the countryside".
It called on the government to amend the National Planning Policy Framework so there is not an automatic presumption to grant planning permission where councils are not able to demonstrate a five-year land supply.
It commissioned research by consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff that showed the NPPF is resulting in a large number of appeals that overturn local decisions.
The findings revealed that of those appeals where the council could not demonstrate a five-year land supply, 72 per cent were allowed.
The findings also showed that even where councils did have a five-year land supply, one in six of the appeals were approved.
CPRE also warned that current policy and a lack of detailed guidance is making it difficult for councils to prove they have a five-year land supply.
It added: "The level of five year supply is regularly being decided, ad hoc, during planning appeals by government planning inspectors, rather than through the more considered and democratically accountable local planning process.
"This ‘moving of the goalposts’ has created huge uncertainty over the reliability of housing requirements for local planning authorities, communities and developers."
John Rowley, planning officer at CPRE, said councils must be provided with detailed guidance on housing targets, and brownfield land must be prioritised so that "unnecessary greenfield development is not so blatantly and regularly allowed through the back door".
Rowley added: "We need to see a more transparent and less punitive system which does not allow unrealistic housing targets to override local concerns.
"The government should remove the automatic presumption for development where there is no five year land supply. It should also immediately stop demanding an extra 20 per cent housing requirement from councils already struggling to meet targets."
But housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said the government had "cleared the way for locally led and democratically backed development".
He said: "Local plans are now at the heart of the planning system and communities have the power to decide on the areas they want to see developed and those they want to be protected."
He added that the government had been "very clear that Green Belt protection continues", and said official statistics showed the level of Green Belt development is at its lowest rate since modern records began in 1989.
He said: "There is enough brownfield land to deliver up to 200,000 new homes, and councils should be using their powers and the support that’s available from the government to prioritise development on these sites, work with the local community and defend our valuable countryside against urban sprawl."
Targeting the countryside is available here.