The Future Of Public Access: Parliamentary Briefings

We face a climate emergency, catastrophic nature loss, rising obesity, a mental health crisis and widening health inequalities. Enabling more people to walk and connect with nature can help tackle these challenges.

Our paths and green spaces encourage people to get outside and get active. They improve our health and happiness and help us relax and unwind. They are where we spend time with family, feel close to nature and connect to our history and heritage. But access to the environment for everyone is far from guaranteed.

The access rights we enjoy and benefit from today are founded on laws and policy that have developed over decades. We want to build on these strong foundations to ensure that more people can get outdoors and benefit from the experience. On this page we provide up-to-date briefings on proposed changes in policy and our take on what it means for access to the outdoors.

Agriculture Bill

Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of land use in the UK. This land contains a significant proportion of the nation’s paths, and farmers already have legal duties to keep paths on their land clear. The Agriculture Bill will therefore shape the countryside and our ability to connect with nature, for generations to come.

The Bill will introduce important new rules to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ahead of the UK’s complete withdrawal from the EU. We welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce a new system of payments to farmers which will see them reward for the delivery of public goods, including public access.

Our ambition is for the Bill to enable more people to access and enjoy the countryside via our fantastic path network for generations to come. The path network helps people learn more about the important work undertaken by farmers, benefits tourism and local businesses, and has a positive impact on our health and well-being. Specifically we need the Bill to enable the following:

  • Enhanced access to the countryside - The Bill should include provisions that enable public payments to go to farmers where they provide new routes for the public or take steps to make the existing network more accessible.
  • Improved protection of the existing path network - Farmers who receive public payments should be expected to fulfil their existing legal duties to keep paths on their land clear. The Bill should establish minimum standards expected of farmers who receive public money.

Together these measures will help ensure more people can access the countryside with greater certainty and confidence and benefit from the experience.

More detailed briefings for the Agriculture Bill are available below:

At Report stage in the House of Lords, thirteen amendments have been tabled which would help secure both enhanced access to the countryside and better protection of the existing path network. 

Environment Bill

For too long, environmental legislation has failed to consider the ways in which people interact with the natural world.  The Environment Bill is an ideal opportunity to address this shortcoming, enabling more people to access and benefit from nature. Connecting people to local environments and fostering a sense of belonging to, and responsibility for, the places where we live, work and play will also help everyone better understand the ways in which they can help protect and improve the environment.

We support provisions in the Bill to create a framework of legally binding targets to drive improvements in biodiversity, water, air and waste reduction. Environmental quality is critical in encouraging people to get outdoors and shaping their experiences when engaging with nature.

However, the Bill must be strengthened to ensure that connecting people to nature is also afforded equal priority and integrated into wider plans for environmental protection and improvement. It should be amendment to require legally binding long-term targets to increase people’s engagement with and access to the natural environment.

More detailed briefings for the Environment Bill, including our suggested ideas for target setting and monitoring, are available below:

Please support us

For further information on any of the issues covered here, or to discuss in greater detail, please contact us at policy@ramblers.org.uk or on 020 3961 3300.

 

Path protectors

Meet our path protectors

From walkers to photographers to micro adventurers, find out why people want to keep paths open, and let us know why you want to protect paths.