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Poll shows surge of love for the countryside in the south east

8th May 2020

A new survey, released today (Thursday 7 May), shows that the lockdown has transformed the way people in the region value their green spaces.

The figures show that more than two thirds of those questioned in the south east (68%) believe that protecting and enhancing greenspaces should be made a higher priority after the lockdown. While just under two thirds (63%) feel that the lockdown has made them more aware of the value of green spaces to their health and wellbeing.

The same survey shows a rise in the importance of local communities, with nearly half those questioned saying they feel ‘more connected’ and only 8% saying they feel ‘less connected’ with their community. However, most people said they value real life communications, such as the ‘Thursday clap’ and ‘saying hello from the front door’, over virtual conversations carried out on the internet or telephone.

The survey, conducted by Opinium, was commissioned by CPRE, the countryside charity and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (WI). It was carried out amid the strictest social distancing measures the UK has ever experienced.

CPRE Sussex Chair, Dan Osborn, who is a Human Ecology Professor, says green and open spaces have never been more important to our physical and mental health and wellbeing:

‘At times like these when everyone is facing challenges the benefits from green and open spaces in towns and cities and the countryside are proportionately greater,’ he says.

‘Green and open spaces are a vital resource that we all need to value and be able to make use of appropriately’

This growing appreciation of our countryside is combined with new surge in community spirit which can be seen across the region.

Lorna Train is a CPRE Sussex Volunteer in Mayfield, East Sussex. She says the lockdown has connected the whole village in a wave of community togetherness:

‘People are offering their spare seeds, flowers and veg plants for free, to collect from front doorsteps’” she says, ‘and the community group Mayfacs has been delivering medicines and food to vulnerable villagers. Local businesses have also been adapting – offering takeaway meals and doing home deliveries.

‘Every Thursday villagers come together in their streets for the 8pm clap for the NHS and a one- time Mayfield town crier, now retired, donned her outfit once more to send a message of hope.’

“Many of us feared that lockdown would see more people isolated, lonely and cut off from their communities and the outside world,” says Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity. “However, today’s results have turned these notions on their head.”

The charity believes the shift in public opinion evident in today’s survey will be impossible for the government to ignore:

‘More people are aware of the health and wellbeing benefits that access to green spaces delivers and support for protecting and enhancing these after lockdown is impossible for the government to ignore,’ says Mr Truman.

‘Going back to business as usual is not an option. The government must use the forthcoming planning reforms to protect these precious spaces and also go further by investing in their enhancement.’

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