Licting Covid-19 in rural areas – some cursory thoughts from Action with Communities in Rural England

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is the national body for is our our 37 sister charitable local development agencies in other counties. Together we make up the ACRE Network.

Lifting Covid-19 restrictions in rural areas – some cursory thoughts
by Philip Vincent.

Lifting Covid-19 restrictions in rural areas – some cursory thoughts
Over the bank holiday weekend, the government outlined a phased plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions, conditional on the rate of the virus being reproduced (‘R’ value) falling to acceptable levels. Phillip Vincent, ACRE’s Public Relations and Communications Manager, outlines some cursory thoughts on what this means for rural communities across England.

Up and down the country, our members are telling us about good neighbour schemes, village halls that are taking on new functions to support key workers and help with relief efforts and emergency plans that are being used and adapted to coordinate community-level efforts
Whilst detailed information and guidance is still emerging, we are having conversations with the 38 charities that make up the ACRE Network to see what the latest government announcements for lifting Covid-19 restrictions mean for their work and the rural communities they support.

In the coming days and weeks, we will be developing our understanding of how rural communities are experiencing these changes, seeking clarity on what community groups such as village hall committees need to do to safely get back up and running and also highlighting inspiring stories where rural residents are helping each other at this time of national crisis.

Unsurprisingly, some commentators are paying particular attention to the lifting of restrictions on travel and the enjoyment of outdoor open spaces and what this means for rural communities. Under the new guidance, people are free to drive the length and breadth of England for this purpose so long as they don’t go to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. This change may well result in high volumes of visitors to parts of the countryside, keen to enjoy new freedoms and make the most of the good weather. In some popular tourist destinations such as the Lake District there are fears this could result in the overcrowding of visitor honeypots. ACRE recognises this could have public health implications and is therefore asking its members to keep a watching brief on the situation locally so they can let us know if problems arise which we can draw to the attention of our contacts within government.

Many of our members too are asking us how village halls and other rural community projects can resume their work. Whilst the government has put forward a framework for employers to make workplaces Covid-19 secure, we have not yet seen any specific guidance that will allow community and voluntary groups to reopen buildings such as village halls and resume much of their work. As such we are in conversation with our members and also Public Health England to think about how groups can be supported to carry out risk assessments sensitive to their circumstances that will keep both volunteers and the wider community safe.

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