MPs agree: “The potential for outdoor recreation is massive”

Posted by Carey Davies on 29/10/2015
MPs, Lords and the BMC walking together in the Peak District in September
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Twenty MPs from six political parties took part in a Westminster debate yesterday which praised the huge economic, educational, environmental and health benefits of the outdoors and highlighted the work of the BMC several times.

Secured by David Rutley MP, who the BMC works closely with as the secretary for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Mountaineering, the debate saw repeated calls for the outdoors to be made central to the government’s physical activity strategy.

It was titled ‘The economic value of outdoor recreation’, but the well-attended session saw Conservative, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem MPs praise the educational, environmental and health benefits of the outdoors as well as its economic contribution.

David Rutley reiterated the importance of the English Coast Path in bringing people to under-visited coastal towns and villages, and called for “a fundamental shift in social attitudes to being active so that it is more usual to take part and be physically active than to not participate. We need to interpret sport in the widest sense of outdoor active participation and recreation.”

Seize the moment

He added: “The summit is in sight, and with the right consideration, co-operation and championing, there is an opportunity for us to make the final push to reach that summit and put outdoor recreation in its rightful place at the pinnacle of the [Department for Culture, Media and Sport's] new strategy for sport.

“Now is the time to seize the moment to get more people active and outdoors in the clean, fresh air that most of us here enjoy, and to enjoy the excellent hospitality and spectacular scenery of our green and pleasant gym.”

The BMC’s link to parliament through the Sport England Parliamentary Sports Fellowship scheme, Greg Mulholland MP, highlighted the economic contribution of hill walking, and former BMC Sports Fellow John Mann MP called for the outdoors to be stitched into the fabric of British culture on every level.

Contributions also came from Karen Lumley, Nick Thomas-Symonds, Hywel Williams, Julian Knight, Gregory Campbell, Nigel Evans, Derek Twigg, Ian Liddell-Grainger, James Gray, Alex Chalk, Danny Kinahan, Caroline Nokes, Andrew Stephenson, James Heappey, Liz Saville Roberts, Simon Hart, Jim Shannon, Chris Heaton-Harris, Carol Monaghan and Chi Onwurah.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch was present and concluded by saying the outdoor industry was “a massive part of the future of the British economy” that that “outdoor recreation has many wider benefits and plays a huge part in delivering a more active nation.”

Amazing outfit

The BMC was mentioned several times. David Rutley said the BMC had given “huge amounts of support” to the six key proposals for government action on the outdoors launched last year  by the BMC and the Mountaineering APPG.

John Mann said: “if one takes the British Mountaineering Council, one sees that there are no spectators; there are only participants”. Graham Evans MP, who the BMC took climbing along with his 12 year old son at his local Helsby Crag earlier this year, described the BMC as “an amazing outfit that puts safety first.”

 

Selected quotes from the debate

Tracey Crouch MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage)

“Although the economic impact of the outdoors is of course important, we should not forget that outdoor recreation has many wider benefits and plays a huge part in delivering a more active nation… The outdoors provides millions of people with the opportunity to participate in a diverse and interesting range of activities. It improves their health and, most importantly, it is fun.

“National parks receive 90 million visitors every year, supporting 68,000 jobs and generating £4 billion for the economy. The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks are to be extended next year, which can only be seen as good news. I want us to encourage those who would benefit most to get out and explore the great outdoors. It should be accessible to everyone, regardless of age, gender or ability.”

“A cross-departmental approach is essential, but a joined-up approach at all levels of Government and governance is also essential. Clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, recreation facilitators and local enterprise partnerships all need to work together.”

“The potential for outdoor recreation is massive. I will publish the sport and physical activity strategy for the country by the end of the year… We are at a unique moment in time, and it is important that all Departments join together to recognise the importance of sport and physical activity to everyone.”

David Rutley MP (Macclesfield, Conservative)

“[The English Coast Path] will be critical to bring people to some of our coastal towns and villages that need increased visits.”

“Some 20 million people said that they would like to participate in outdoor recreation of some kind when they contributed to Sport England’s commissioned research ‘Getting Active Outdoors’… If we can inspire people and get more people off the sofa and active in one or more kinds of outdoor recreation, we can harvest considerable economic benefits in terms of health spending saved and productive value added.”

“We now need a fundamental shift in social attitudes to being active so that it is more usual to take part and be physically active than to not participate. We need to interpret sport in the widest sense of outdoor active participation and recreation”

“The summit is in sight, and with the right consideration, co-operation and championing, there is an opportunity for us to make the final push to reach that summit and put outdoor recreation in its rightful place at the pinnacle of the Department’s new strategy for sport.

“Now is the time to seize the moment to get more people active and outdoors in the clean, fresh air that most of us here enjoy, and to enjoy the excellent hospitality and spectacular scenery of our green and pleasant gym.”

John Mann MP (Bassetlaw, Labour)

“Part of the case that we have been making in recent years… is that everything that relates to the great outdoors fits within the definitions of sport. Indeed, if one takes the British Mountaineering Council, one sees that there are no spectators; there are only participants, of every age.”

“Getting outdoors is about broadening people’s horizons. A third of the young people I surveyed in schools in my constituency go on holiday abroad every year. A third go to the seaside—Skegness, Mablethorpe and so on—and a third go nowhere. It is not just about the health benefits of physical activity, but about how people live and their opportunities in life.”

“I appeal to the Minister to ensure, cross-departmentally, that outdoor recreation is at the heart of things. It is an investment for the future. She will save other Departments huge amounts of money.”

Greg Mulholland MP (Leeds North West, Liberal Democrat)

“On Saturday I was on the top of Skiddaw above Keswick at 3,000 feet. I have been going there with a group of friends for 25 years… We spend money when we are there. We have meals in the local fish and chip shop or the local curry house. We go to cafés and have the necessary many cups of tea and coffee. Hillwalkers are hungry people, and we even pop into one or two of the local pubs, which might surprise colleagues.”

“There has been a huge growth in hillwalking and climbing, which is very welcome, but we want to see even more. I was delighted when the BMC asked me to do a Sport England fellowship and to become its hillwalking sports fellowship ambassador.”

“Will [sports minister Tracy Crouch] convene a meeting between the DCMS and DEFRA, because those two Departments need to be absolutely locked together in bringing forward a strategy?”

James Heappey MP (Wells, Conservative)

“Nearly a quarter of a million people go hillwalking and climbing every month. That is worth £2.3 billion a year to the UK economy.”

“I make a plea to the Minister to push on with the investment in the South West Coast Path. From the numbers I have seen, I understand that it might cost barely £500,000 a year to maintain, but that it would generate £435 million of economic activity. Those are encouraging statistics, which I hope the Minister recognises.”

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Plaid Cymru)

“I ask [sports minister Tracey Crouch] to consider how best to encourage overseas visitors, and perhaps home visitors too, to venture beyond the capital cities of England and Scotland. Search engines need to be able to direct potential visitors to outdoor recreation activities, events and attractions in locations across the United Kingdom, and thus encourage people to explore and spread economic value to areas where its impact is proportionately far more significant.”

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Conservative)

“As long as teachers still believe that outdoor activity is a sort of alternative to education, we shall never make the progress we would like. It needs to be seen as just as important an element of a young person’s education and upbringing as work in a classroom or laboratory.”

Graham Evans MP (Weaver Vale, Conservative)

 “Recently, I abseiled… I am most grateful to my honourable Friend and to the British Mountaineering Council, which is an amazing outfit that puts safety first. I had never abseiled down a mountain before, but I felt relatively safe, and my 12-year-old son took to abseiling like a fish to water. I know that is not a very good analogy, but he abseiled down the hill perfectly, unlike me.”

“Outdoor recreation can make a significant contribution to tackling the £10 billion cost of physical inactivity, crucially saving our NHS money… Outdoor recreation also drives the visitor economy, with an estimated £27 billion spent on visits to the great outdoors, providing vital investment in what are often our most rural communities.”

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West, SNP)

 “In the mountains north of Ullapool, there have been recent reports of signs on footpaths saying, “Mountain closed”. That is a challenge to the ancient right to roam, and we need to be aware of that. The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament, is about ensuring that communities living on the land have a greater say in how it is used and allowing them to reap the economic benefits of their land.”

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central, Labour):

“It is essential that the Government deliver a strong, coherent and joined-up sport and physical activity strategy... According to the most recent data from Sport England, there are around 400,000 fewer people taking part in sport once a week than there were in 2011-12, including 275,700 fewer women. That is of particular concern. Also, the percentage of those in the lowest income groups who participate has fallen from 29.3% to 25.7%.”

Watch the full debate on Parliament TV

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The Access and Conservation Trust

The BMC's charity  the BMC Access & Conservation Trust  promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.

READ: More about the recent work of ACT

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Anonymous User
06/11/2015
While increasing outdoor recreation is great. There would be an even greater increase in outdoor recreation if it became mandatory for schools to provide quality experiences other than just expensive residential a that may not be accessible to all. From experience I know that young people introduced to outdoor activities in short and regular burst often take up some forms of the activities. With the number of climbing walls in the country it should not be impossible for all to experience/ try some form of climbing as a mandatory part of their education, in the same way that most boys play football and girls play netball. This would also a way of generating employment and business for walls.

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