The government must invest in the ‘countryside next door’ as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The countryside charity has launched its regeneration manifesto today.

The manifesto, titled: 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.

South West Farmer:

It calls for support for rural communities and the breaking down of the barriers too many face towards accessing the health and wellbeing benefits of time in green spaces.

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.

South West Farmer:

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"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."

Rhiane Fatinikun, founder of Black Girls Hike, who is a panellist at the launch of the regeneration manifesto, said:

"Representing people of all backgrounds in the countryside really matters – I believe if you can see it, you can be it. For too long I didn’t even think about connecting with nature, as if the countryside wasn’t for me. A chronic lack of representation in all aspects of the outdoors can make people feel like they don’t fit the mould.

"Black Girls Hike was set up to change this. Creating a safe space with people who share your experiences is refreshing but also essential for our well-being. We’ll continue breaking down the barriers to nature and the countryside in the hope that more black girls, and people of all backgrounds, follow us into the great outdoors.’

The manifesto was launched at a virtual debate this morning (July 1), 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.

The manifesto outlines a vision for a resilient countryside with thriving rural communities that is open to everyone, whether visiting, living or working there.

For the full manifesto, visit CPRE’s website