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‘Once in a generation chance to unleash potential of the countryside’ - CPRE launches regeneration manifesto

Monday, 06 July 2020 13:00

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.

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.

The manifesto was launched at a virtual debate 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.

‘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.

CPRE Oxfordshire would like to see:

A reversal of development plans: recent planning decisions across Oxfordshire have failed people and communities. Current plans would see over 20,000 houses built in the Green Belt, development equating to a 1/3 of the size of Oxford.

Pollution in Oxfordshire’s rivers effectively monitored and treated. The river Windrush, which is particularly affected by untreated sewage, should be restored to a ‘good’ ecological standard and be safe for people and animals.

We should be much more ambitious for new development. Housing Standards should support high quality design, future proofing against climate change and ensuring that new and existing buildings meet zero carbon standards. Higher density development encourages sustainable communities, more easily able to support local services and public transport.

Regeneration in action
Hogacre Common Eco Park is a rural oasis a mile from Oxford City Centre within the Oxford Green Belt. CPRE Oxfordshire is supporting the 14- acre community space by providing funds for various initiatives. These include training courses, planting a forest garden, improving access and installing information boards to offer a greater understanding of the site and projects.

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.

For the full manifesto, please visit CPRE’s website here: https://bit.ly/31d6brW

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