Lockdown learnings: we want richer green spaces

4th June 2020

Over two-thirds of us want to see our local green spaces enhanced with more plants and wildlife, our new research shows.

It was perhaps natural that the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic would affect how we feel about our local green spaces. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that one in every eight households don’t have access to our own gardens, so daily exercise in nearby countryside and parks and other green spaces became a lifeline to many.

We at CPRE have long campaigned for us all to have easy access to quality green spaces from our doorsteps. And new online research that we commissioned just as lockdown started, working with the HomeOwners Alliance, shows that our time in a pandemic has really reinforced just how much people want these green spaces to be the best they can be.

Making green spaces greener

We asked over 2000 people some key questions about their green spaces, and 71% of those we asked told us that they would like to see these enhanced. Our survey shows the many ways that people would like to see these local spaces, including their nearby countryside, made even better. Over half said they’d like to see more wildlife including birds, butterflies and bees, and almost exactly the same amount of people said they want more variety in the trees, shrubs, hedgerows, plants and flowers in these areas. It seems we’re all hoping for rich and diverse spaces in which to rest and play.

Red mason bee emerging from hole
People have told us they’d like to see more birds, bees and butterflies in their local spaces / CC: orangaurochs / Flickr | orangaurochs / Flickr

It’s not neat lawns many people are picturing, either. 30% told us that they’d like to see fewer manicured spaces and more wildness, where nature has been allowed to take its course. And we want to explore and exercise safely in these areas, with over a third of people saying they’d like more signposted walks and 34% saying they’d like paths and plants to be better maintained.

A beating green heart

We’ll continue to call on the government to do all they can to enhance these local spaces, so that we can all escape to a green idyll from our front doors.

Our chief executive Crispin Truman noted the extent to which local green spaces have ‘hurtled up the agenda as a political issue’ since lockdown.

‘We’ve been championing local countryside and green spaces for nearly a century, believing they are vital for our health and wellbeing – a natural health service as they’re now being called.

‘But not everyone has access to green spaces and too many have been lost as the countryside next door to our largest towns and cities faces mounting pressure for development. If the government is serious about learning the lessons of the pandemic, it must use upcoming planning reforms to protect these precious spaces and recognise their value as a natural health service, as we do.

‘But we can’t stop there – by properly investing in our green spaces we can make these spaces easily accessible to more people and invite wildlife like birds, butterflies and bees back.’

A street sign reads 'lockdown'