A recent poll shows a surge in appreciation for local greenspaces since the first lockdown. The poll was conducted by Opinium on behalf of CPRE, the countryside charity (formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England). It found that:
Over two thirds (67%) of adults think protecting and enhancing green spaces should be a higher priority after lockdown;
Nearly half (46%) reported visiting green spaces more since the start of lockdown – a dramatic 11 percentage point increase since April 2020;
59% reported they are more aware of the importance of these local green spaces for our mental health and wellbeing since lockdown.
So how should this change how we treat the green spaces?
Perhaps this means we should be investing more time, energy and finance into them? Perhaps we could be protecting them more?
These questions have been part of the drive for the Wild Earlswood project, coming out of Climate Action Reigate and Redhill. The huge response to the launch of our Wild Earlswood Facebook page last weekend is evidence that it is catching the zeitgeist, going from 3 to over 100 'follows' in hours!
When land changes from green to grey, plans are removed, foundations are poured, we know it will never return to green again. Can you think of an example where it has? The huge local opposition to the crematorium planning application at New Pond Farm speaks of these concerns, despite the land being currently 'just fields'. But people have said it is 'our walk' or 'our fields'. Within our Wild Earlswood project, we hope to be working with the council Greenspaces team to rewild these areas where possible and improve their ecological value, but also hope to add weight to the intrinsic value of nature over the commodification of a council 'asset'.
Research published by CPRE focusses on the threat of development to much of the country's green belt land. Commenting on the findings, Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said:
“To make sure we protect and enhance the Green Belt while allowing for the genuinely affordable new homes that are sorely needed, CPRE is urging the government to put people and nature at the heart of the forthcoming Planning Bill.”
The report reminds us of the motto brownfield first in stopping further loss of greenspaces. We don't have an official 'green belt' around Reigate and Redhill, but we know where the housing turns to fields and value our proximity to nature. Are the councils using all opportunities for brownfield? How do we hold them to account about this?