What Politicians and Decision-Makers Need to Know about Our Countryside

What Politicians and Decision-Makers Need to Know about Our Countryside

by Lizzie Bannister

Lizzie and dog

Lizzie and Ted the Dog

We need to ask ourselves: does the countryside get the same attention as the need to build houses, new shopping outlets and other forms of urbanisation? Yes, there is a need to build more houses but there is also the need to moderate the number of houses built, to respect other land uses, and to be aware of the way that the countryside benefits us and adds to our quality of life.

Yes, most of those young adults leaving schools and higher education programmes, including apprenticeships, this year and the next, and the next, will need somewhere to earn their living and will eventually want their own home.  This may well mean a bit more urbanisation or expansion into the countryside. Villages may grow and more facilities and services will be required. But we also need:

-          A good supply of sustainably produced food to eat both locally and nationally. Key to this is farming which promotes food security, wildlife-friendly practices, British produce and which is supportive of the rural economy and opportunities, including job creation.

-          Recreation opportunities in the countryside, for example, equestrian sports, golf, walking, cycling, nature watching, running, fishing, boating and so on. Remember, there are great health and wellbeing benefits, as well as the fact that a huge number of jobs and industries would be supported, generating revenue over the longer term. We were very happy with our dog walk at Holme Fen NNR, Cambridgeshire, and we also enjoyed visiting the pub in Holme!

-          Tourism and opportunities for days out for families and visitors not local to the area would be enhanced if the countryside and its uses are respected. The Great Fen Project is a great example -nature and the climate are supported, and it is more sustainable than other forms of tourism or flying abroad.

-          Support for mental and physical health – mental health is a major concern these days, and so are other issues that are  linked to not getting enough exercise or being able to access things like countryside walks. So it goes without saying that giving people the opportunity to live quality lives, take an interest in engaging hobbies and be more active should always be taken into account when “developing” an area!

-          To make space for “the other”, which is incredibly important. This means allowing animals, trees, other-than-human things to co-exist; we are all are part of the world and interconnected.  

So, we need to ask, do our politicians truly know these things? Should developers be allowed to profiteer from the countryside? What about the people already living in an area who have established and happy lifestyles? What about the potential loss of green spaces? What happens to the building industry if they have built so many houses so quickly everywhere? Should we be relying on this type of economy, especially in the face of climate change and finite land supply?

Any development, such as housing should reflect actual need, and we should not lose sight of the importance of other types of land use as described above.  When our countryside is lost, it’s usually lost forever. We need to let people lead happy, healthy and productive lives, and this enhanced by access to the countryside and outdoor activities.  And it simply makes sense to consider wildlife, the countryside, gardens, landscapes and livestock in housing targets and planning.

This means, at the crux of it, good and careful planning with a landscape view that considers other land uses and involves the regular review of housing targets against actual need, the implications of climate change, and other needs such as mental and physical wellbeing.  After all, we all benefit from the countryside!

Lizzie's dog Ted

Ted the Dog (Lizzie's Dog)