New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the benefits to mental health of access to green spaces during the lockdown due to the covid-19 outbreak; what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of reopening garden centres; and if he will make it his policy to allow (a) garden centres and (b) private gardens to admit members of the public subject to the strict maintenance of social distancing requirements.  [37373]

[Due for Answer on 27 April.]


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Victoria Prentis): The Secretary of State regularly discusses a range of issues with Cabinet colleagues including the Health Secretary and, as set out in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan published in January 2018, is aware of the benefits of connecting people to the natural environment for both mental and physical health and wellbeing.

As this is the International Year of Plant Health, we have been promoting the benefits of our plants in all settings and are planning a National Plant Health Week in September.

The benefits of being outside are noted in the Government guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19). You will be aware of the announcement the Communities Secretary made on 18 April with regard to ensuring public parks stay open.

The Government is keeping the situation on garden centres under review, but concluded last week that it was too early to ease any restrictions on such retail environments. Social distance requirements will continue to be considered in accordance with this review.

We will continue to work closely with the representatives from the horticulture supply chain to understand what short-term and long-term support the sector needs and how we might be able to support them. We are ready to respond to emerging issues quickly and effectively.