The Government must invest in the ‘countryside next door’ in order to ensure we all have access to quality green space near to where we live as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, according to CPRE, the countryside charity.
Its “Regenerate our countryside, regenerate ourselves: A manifesto for a resilient countryside after coronavirus”, urges the Government to seize this once in a generation opportunity to protect and invest in the countryside, support rural communities and break down the barriers too many face in accessing the health and wellbeing benefits of time in green spaces.
Critically, our Green Belts, the countryside next door to 30 million people, and other countryside around large towns and cities which don’t currently have Green Belts, should see funding significantly increased to make sure they are enhanced and include greener farming techniques that could make our food supply more resilient to future shocks, it says.
The manifesto was launched at a virtual debate on Wednesday with leading countryside and political voices, including Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, Philip Dunne MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mike Amesbury MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning, and Caroline Lucas MP, former leader of the Green Party.
Emma Bridgewater, president of CPRE, said: “Just as national parks were integral to post-war reconstruction in the late 1940s, so too should everyday landscapes, including local green spaces, the Green Belt and the countryside next door, become a central part of the Government’s response to coronavirus recovery.
“Public support for protecting and enhancing these spaces is impossible for Ministers to ignore – now more than ever we need more quality green spaces available to everyone and to make sure young people form lifelong connections with nature that can help us bounce back from the pandemic and build resilience in the longer term.
“Today we are calling on the Government to seize this once in a generation opportunity to put the countryside and access to green spaces at the heart of the recovery.
“That means putting the Green Belt ahead of developers profit margins, guaranteeing children’s education includes quality time in nature and breaking down the barriers to the countryside for groups previously excluded.
“But we also need to make sure rural communities don’t bear the brunt of the economic fallout by supporting the rural economy and investing in rural social housing.
“Only then can the Government claim to be learning the lessons of lockdown and building back better.”
The manifesto outlines a vision for a resilient countryside with thriving rural communities that is open to everyone, whether visiting, living or working there.
n For the full manifesto please visit CPRE’s website here: bit.ly/31d6brW