Investment needed for countryside next door to level up access to nature - CPRE

Pointing a greater share of government funds towards the Green Belt could give a huge boost to people’s health and wellbeing – because so many people use its network of public footpaths, bridleways, cycle tracks, nature reserves and historic parks and gardens.

Walkers in Bath Green Belt. Image: CPRE
Walkers in Bath Green Belt. Image: CPRE

We’ve published some research on how government funding for the restoration of nature and cultural heritage are distributed, looking at where the schemes to plant trees, improve soil health, boost biodiversity and restore historic parks and buildings are sited.

Green Belt covers 12.5% of England and is the area around many of our towns and cities that provides the countryside next door for 30 million people. Yet despite its importance to so many people, it’s missing out on much of this key funding.

The research shows that just over a quarter (28%) of Green Belt farmland is covered by these sorts of government funding schemes, compared with 42% nationwide. Only 7% of all national spending is on Green Belt land, even though Green Belt contains 11% of all England’s farmland.

This means that valued spaces such as the parkland setting of Bentley Priory – the headquarters of the RAF during the Battle of Britain – are at risk of neglect or even loss.

Surge in visitors

Repeated studies show the countryside around our major towns and cities is increasingly valued by people. When we looked at one recent government study, we saw that four out of the ten most valued parks in England are on Green Belt land.

Those managing the land interviewed by CPRE confirmed the surge in the number of people visiting historic sites and beauty spots first reported during lockdown has continued to remain strong, with the Green Belt increasingly being used for walking and recreation.

Our new research, The countryside next door: why we need to invest in greener, healthier Green Belts, is the first to analyse where agri-environment funding has been spent. The resulting report demonstrates that the new schemes are the most important means by which the government’s own pledge to safeguard and improve the Green Belt can be met.

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Posted On: 26/05/2022

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