Self-catering cottages, camp sites and other tourism businesses should be allowed to stop an "unpleasant atmosphere" developing between rural dwellers and urban visitors, countryside campaigners say today.
The Countryside Alliance said that English campsites, holiday cottages and pubs with beer gardens should be allowed to open to allow rural businesses to benefit financially from the influx of visitors.
One source said that visitors from towns and cities could find more "go away" signs being erected and footpaths blocked unless the Government let rural businesses benefit from the influx of day trippers who cannot go abroad due to Covid-19.
The Government's "Covid-19 Recovery strategy" - published earlier this month - made clear that in England "people may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there, because this does not involve contact with people outside your household".
However the same guidance said that campsites, hotels and other parts of the hospitality industry could not open until July 4 at the earliest to ensure that the virus is kept under control.
Baroness Mallalieu QC, the president of the Countryside Alliance, warned that the Government's relaxation in rules had created a "new wave of concern" among rural dweller fearful of an influx of people with coronavirus.
Writing for today's Telegraph website, the Labour peer said: "Of course restrictions must be lifted, and understandably people locked down in urban areas for weeks are desperate to escape to the countryside, but at the moment rural communities are being asked to accept the risk of people travelling to the countryside, without any reward.
"In some areas this has created an unpleasant atmosphere with local people increasingly wary of visitors. If this situation continues until the Government’s proposed third phase of Covid recovery in six weeks time, whilst increasing numbers of people travelling into the countryside on a daily basis, there is a real risk of an increasing divide between town and country."
Lady Mallalieu added: "The Countryside Alliance believes that the answer is not to restrict movement to the countryside, but to allow rural businesses to reopen and get some reward. Tourism underpins the rural economy and will be the engine that restarts it."
The alliance set out a three step way to reopen the countryside starting with campsites and self catering accommodation.
Camping and caravan sites, which had already missed out on £25 million of income during the Covid lockdown, could operate with the appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures in place.
Next cafes and pubs without gardens should be allowed to open "to make use of the takeaway rules and also be able to serve alcoholic beverages and other drinks".
And thirdly "all national parks, local authorities and private landowners reopen car parks to spread visitors across the countryside rather than concentrating them at ‘honey pot’ sites".
Lady Mallalieu added: "These proposals might not be universally popular in the countryside, but it would be a huge mistake for rural communities to think that they can isolate themselves completely either from the virus, or from its economic impact.
"People from across the UK will be desperate to get away as restrictions on movement are eased.
"With international travel likely to remain difficult for some time the British countryside will be the number one destination, which makes it all the more vital that the Government in England, and the devolved administrations, move as quickly as they can to reopen the countryside and resolve the growing divide."