12 December 2014 by Kate Conto
Evidence increasingly shows that nature is in trouble. Wildlife and landscapes are under increasing threat from development, climate change and degradation. Yet the intrinsic benefits that nature provides for our wellbeing and prosperity have arguably never been more important.
On 9 December 2014, the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and League Against Cruel Sports - supported by the Ramblers, Butterfly Conservation and The Mammal Society - held a Rally for Nature in Westminster. Supporters met their MPs in Parliament to make the case for nature and in particular to call for the new law - the Nature and Wellbeing Act – to help restore our natural environment and put nature at the heart of decision making.
Of course, one of the great joys of walking is to immerse yourself in nature, taking in beautiful landscapes and watching wildlife. So we are committed to protecting the beauty of the countryside and green spaces everywhere. But as Ramblers, the question we would most like to put to Parliamentarians is how can public access to nature be improved and made secure for future generations? We know that parks, paths and other open green spaces are enormously popular and provide massive health, social and economic benefits to individuals and communities. We also know that they face an uncertain and worrying future.
Severe and continued cuts to local authority budgets are increasingly affecting the ability of authorities to maintain parks, paths and open green spaces in both urban and rural areas . If the cuts continue as expected, we can expect paths and green places to become increasingly neglected, unwelcoming and potentially dangerous places, with serious consequences for public health and wellbeing, social cohesion and understanding of the natural environment, particularly for children.
The Ramblers are pleased to support the Nature and Wellbeing Bill, for the benefits it will provide both for the environment and for people. The Bill calls on the next Government to commit to increasing the extent, accessibility and quality of natural green space close to where people live. It would place a new duty on the Secretary of State to set targets for the provision of natural green space to a minimum standard in all settlements and provide guidance on how these targets should be met.
Guidelines for improving the quality and accessibility of green space in new developments could help increase green space almost immediately. In the medium to long term, targets would encourage local authorities to work with communities to find new ways to improve access and increase people’s opportunities to connect with nature.
The Rally for Nature is the start of a series of planned activity to persuade politicians about the importance of the environment in the run up to the general election next May. Let's make 2015 the year that all political parties take nature seriously.