The recently published Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) fails to fully recognise the important role that access and recreation play in facilitating the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the natural environment – warn The Ramblers and the BMC.
We welcome the commitment to restoring our natural environment, and the central place given to people, but call on Government to ensure this translates into action which delivers the public’s ‘freedom to enjoy and understand the natural environment’. The NEWP does not offer sufficient support for current access provision; completely ignoring the future of coastal access in England. This omission provides a clear indication of the Governments lack of commitment and understanding of the value of public access.
Together, the Ramblers and the BMC have outlined 10 priority areas that Government should deliver alongside those commitments outlined in the NEWP to ensure an improved natural environment remains in the public’s interest and for the public.
Action for Government:
- Commit to a timetable for opening stretches of the English coastal path each year
- Support existing bodies in the delivery of public access and recreational opportunities
- Recognise the importance of outdoor recreation in any new landscape designations
- Publicise more widely the countryside code and responsible access to ensure future generations enjoy our natural environment
- Protect long-term access to recreational land now owned by public bodies
- Commit to ensure all rights of way are recorded, open and easy to use
- Encourage dedication of public land to create permanent access rights
- Ensure Local Authorities have staff and expertise to be able to deal with rights of way and access issues, co-ordinate practical maintenance and publicity work
- Improve protection of our green spaces and ensure there are attractive non-motorised routes to them
- Continue to promote the benefits of, and opportunities for, walking, climbing and quiet recreation
Adrian Morris, Ramblers Head of Campaigns, said:
“The Government underestimated public support for outdoor access and recreation during the forestry debacle. They must take note of the value of public access and seek to protect and enhance it, including access to the British coast.The fact that there is no mention of coastal access, and the future roll out of the English Coastal Path, is indicative of the Government’s apparent disregard for public access. We call on the Government to rectify this omission and clarify its commitment to coastal access for all.”
Catherine Flitcroft, BMC Access and Conservation Officer, said:
“For most people the value of the natural environment is not measured in terms of cost but from the sense of well-being, physical and mental health benefits, as well as enjoyment. The tranquillity, wildness and cultural heritage of our landscape are values that must be taken into consideration when making decisions about the natural environment, particularly around planning and economic growth.”
You can view the Natural Environment White Paper on the DEFRA website
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