Almost two thirds of people think looking after and improving local parks and green space should be more of a priority after lockdown, a poll suggests.
More than half (53%) of those quizzed said they appreciate local parks and nearby countryside and green belt more since social distancing measures were brought in.
Even more (57%) felt they were more aware of the importance of such green spaces to mental health and wellbeing.
The survey of more than 2,000 people for countryside charity CPRE and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (WI), carried out by Opinium, also showed a boost to community spirit.
Around two-fifths of people said they were communicating more with and felt more connected to their community, with simple acts like waving during the Thursday ‘clap for our carers’, saying hello on the doorstep and social media groups bringing people together.
Just over a third (35%) of people said they were visiting local green space more often since lockdown, and 63% said protecting and enhancing such areas should be more of a priority in the wake of the pandemic.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE said: “Our countryside and local green spaces are facing mounting pressure but the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us why the countryside next door, including our green belts, is so important to ordinary people.
“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.
“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.”
The call comes after the Government’s climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, urged ministers to invest in improving parks and planting trees as part of a green recovery to the pandemic.
Lynne Stubbings, chair, National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said it was “wonderful” to see people becoming more connected, and that the WI was supporting those in need in their communities.
She also said green spaces had been a lifeline to people.
“So many of us have discovered pockets of green right on our doorsteps – a chance to get out in the fresh air, exercise, and support our mental wellbeing, which has been an oasis in difficult times,” she said.
“Yet too many of these places are threatened – by pollution, litter or the impacts of climate change.
“As we look to rebuild after the crisis, we must make sure that we continue to cherish our communities and this new sense of connectedness – both to each other and to our local environment.”