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, as it launches its regeneration manifesto today.
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 well-being 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.
The manifesto was launched at a virtual debate this morning (1 July) with leading countryside and political voices, including Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, Rt Hon 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, the countryside charity, 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. Key recommendations of the manifesto include:
- Regenerate our green spaces: the government must support local councils and communities to deliver up-to-date local plans, adopt a truly ‘brownfield first’ policy and ensure that our Green Belts, our countryside next door, is enhanced through greater funding;
- Regenerate ourselves: the government must guarantee every child a night in nature as recommended in the Glover landscape review, and increase funding for the many tried-and-tested community outreach projects that have already enabled greater engagement with the countryside for marginalised groups; and
- Regenerate our rural economies: the government must establish a rural economy task force working across government to develop a comprehensive strategy for supporting the rural economy and invest in rural social housing to provide genuinely affordable homes for our key workers.
Dee Haas, chair of CPRE in Hampshire said:
In Hampshire, we want to see our countryside given the value it deserves. This is a once in a generation opportunity to put the countryside and access to green spaces at the heart of the recovery. Countryside next door to our urban communities needs to be better protected from urban sprawl so that generations to come can enjoy it. How do we do this? By the prioritisation of brownfield sites and regeneration within towns and cities, and new designations such as Green Belt – the only effective legislation currently available to stop the unrestricted growth of urban centres.
We are campaigning for a new Green Belt in South Hampshire so that local people have vital access to green space and to restrict the further merging of these built-up areas. As revealed in a new research report by NEF Consulting, the countryside in this part of Hampshire could generate half a billion pounds over two generations in health, wellbeing, economic and ecosystem benefits if protected by a Green Belt.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to shine a light on the deep inequalities that exist in who is able to make use of green space or countryside near to where they live. Natural England’s figures show that children from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are 20% less likely than white children to visit the countryside. That’s why CPRE is campaigning for every child to be guaranteed a night in nature in a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as recommended in last year’s Landscapes Review by Julian Glover OBE.