Ten leading outdoor organisations are joining together in Westminster today (11 June) to urge parliamentarians to factor the benefits of outdoor recreation into their manifestos and policies ahead of the next general election.
The event, organised by the BMC and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering, co-chaired by David Rutley MP and John Mann MP, will highlight the social, health and economic benefits that outdoor recreation contributes to the nation. MPs and peers have been invited to make a date with outdoor representatives at the ‘speed-briefing’ to learn more about outdoor recreation and countryside conservation.
Millions of people love being outdoors whether for walking, cycling, running, exploring, climbing or visiting our National Parks and other open spaces. Over a 12-month period from March 2012 to February 2013, the English adult population participated in an estimated 2.85 billion visits to the natural environment with a total visitor spend of £21 billion.
The ten leading outdoor organisations, collectively representing over six million people with an interest in outdoor recreation and the conservation of our countryside, are: British Mountaineering Council, Campaign for National Parks, English Outdoor Council, Living Streets, Open Spaces Society, Outdoor Industries Association (Britain on Foot campaign), Ramblers, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Wild Network and the Youth Hostel Association.
The organisations are asking political parties to support six proposals for government action on the outdoors to help realise the full potential that recreation and the conservation of our countryside can bring to the nation. Whether it is a walk in the park, a nature trail or a high-octane climb in the mountains, the social, health and physical effects of outdoor recreation are felt throughout the country. Parliamentarians are being encouraged to show their support on social media using the hashtag #valueoutdoors.
The event will also mark the launch of Reconomics – a new report from the Sport and Recreation Alliance highlighting the economic impact of outdoor recreation.
Six key proposals for government action
Parliamentarians are being encouraged to support the following six key proposals for government action:
Cross-government support for a long-term strategy on outdoor recreation
Introduce a fully resourced cross-government strategy with ministerial support to promote outdoor recreation.
Increase opportunities for young people to get outside
Increase opportunities for young people to engage in outdoor learning in both school and non-school settings.
Improve access to coast and countryside
Facilitate and promote public access to outdoor spaces including the coast, woodland and open countryside.
Maximise the economic contribution of outdoor recreation
Maximise the economic contribution of outdoor recreation to the rural economy through targeted investment.
Strengthen planning guidance and protect the outdoors
Strengthen the protection of areas valued for their natural beauty and recreational opportunities.
Better public transport in rural areas
Invest in accessible and affordable public transport for residents and visitors to our countryside.
What the organisations say:
Dave Turnbull, BMC CEO, said: “We want MPs and peers to become champions for outdoor recreation and help turn our six top proposals into policy. The benefits of outdoor recreation to health, wellbeing and the economy are becoming increasingly clear and government departments need to work together to maximise the potential.”
Sallie Barker, the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s Interim Chief Executive, said: “Outdoor recreation isn’t a passing fad. The activity it enables changes lives by creating prosperity and improving health. But actions speak louder than words, which is why we want a long-term strategy for outdoor recreation with a single Minister taking responsibility for making it happen.”
Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society (Britain’s oldest national conservation body), said: “At times of financial pressure and hardship it is more important than ever that people have good-quality green spaces to enjoy close to home and that we invest in our fine landscapes and people’s ability to gain access to them.”
David Bond, star of Project Wild Thing and a Director of the Wild Network, said: “These joint proposals for government action on the outdoors act as an insurance policy for future generations. People who get outdoors and connect with nature as kids, grow into the adults who seek out outdoor thrills and remain curious about the natural world around them. By acting on these proposals, politicians can have a real and lasting impact on the way our children, and our children’s children, view and play with nature and the outdoors.”
Benedict Southworth, Chief Executive of the Ramblers, said: “Outdoor recreation makes a huge contribution towards supporting rural economies yet this value often goes overlooked. Political parties need to recognise this in their manifestos and invest in outdoor recreation. Whether it is building the England Coast path, supporting our national trails or opening up public woods, there are many ways they can support the outdoors economy, help rural businesses and build a healthier, happier Britain.”
Julian Woolford, CEO for the Campaign for National Parks, said: “National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the British Isles, containing some of our most breath-taking scenery, rare wildlife and cultural heritage and providing opportunities for a wide range of recreational activities. Over 100 million people visit the National Parks of England and Wales every year, eager to enjoy their unique qualities, peace and tranquillity and contributing over £5 billion to the economy. We want MPs to commit to keeping National Parks safe for everyone to enjoy.”
Dr Kevin Golding-Williams, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Living Streets, said: “If everyone in England took the recommended 150 minutes a week of exercise, 37,000 lives and billions of pounds would be saved. Whether it’s walking to school, in the park or in the countryside, making walking safer and easier can deliver significant benefits for the environment, the economy and public health. Living Streets is calling for adequate investment in programmes to get more people walking and legislation to support people to make active travel choices wherever they live.”
Key facts and figures
Outdoor recreation is the UK’s favourite pastime: three in four adults in England regularly get active outdoors.
Outdoor recreation drives the visitor economy: people spending their day enjoying outdoor recreation spent £21billion in 2012/13.
In the English countryside walkers spend over £6 billion a year, supporting up to 245,000 full time jobs. In Wales 28m walking-related trips are made to the countryside and coast each year, where walkers spend £632m.
Outdoor recreation promotes a healthy nation. It can make a significant contribution to tackling the £10 billion cost of physical inactivity.
In rural areas the £33bn tourism industry now accounts for 14% of employment and 10% of businesses. Since the start of the recent recession, a third of all jobs created have been in tourism.
The 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak (which effectively closed the countryside) cost the tourism industry an estimated £5bn.
Research by the RSPB and University of Essex has revealed that only 1 in 5 children under 12 have a ‘connection to nature’.
Learning outside the classroom and adventurous outdoor activities have been shown to help students with emotional and behavioural difficulties ‘control their behaviour and develop responsible attitudes’.
Natural England recommends that everyone be able to access green space of at least 2 hectares in size within 5 minutes’ walking distance of their home.
94% of mental health patients who take part in green exercise programmes with MIND say green exercise alleviates symptoms and improves mental health.
If everyone was given equal access to good quality green space, the estimated saving to the NHS is £2.1bn.
Find our more:
Read the Reconomics report from the Sport and Recreation Alliance highlighting the economic impact of outdoor recreation.