NEARLY two thirds of people think protecting green spaces should be a higher priority after the lockdown.

A survey commissioned by the Hampshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows that most people are more appreciative of local green spaces since social distancing measures have been implemented.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced curbs on when people can leave their homes in March, including on only going outdoors for exercise once a day. That has since been extended to unlimited exercise.

However, since those measures have been in place, 59 per cent of those living in the South East say they appreciate local green spaces more, and 63 per cent say that lockdown has made them more aware of how important they are for our mental health and wellbeing.

Meanwhile, 42 per cent of people in the region say they have visited green spaces more than they did before lockdown.

It comes as CPRE Hampshire continues its campaign to protect the ‘green belt’ to the north of the large urban areas of south Hampshire.

They say that “going back to business as usual is not an option”.

Dee Haas, chair of CPRE Hampshire 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 all of us.

“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.

“In Hampshire, we’re campaigning for new Green Belt to protect the countryside north of the urban areas of South Hampshire. The results of this research show that the majority of people support this and want to see better protection for our valuable and life-enhancing green spaces.

“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.

“Many of us feared that lockdown would see more people isolated, lonely and cut off from their communities and the outside world. However, today’s results have turned these notions on their head. While we are physically distanced, many of us are more connected than ever and people are helping each other in their communities – with different age groups connecting more – which is truly inspiring to see.”