General election - Party manifestos

As we enter into the final few weeks of the general election campaign, Stephen Russell, Ramblers policy and advocacy officer, rounds up the parties’ pledges that could impact on walking and the places we love to walk. You can read the Ramblers’ own manifesto for the next Westminster government at www.ramblers.org.uk/ge19

In alphabetical order by party:

Brexit Party: Contract with the People

The Brexit Party has criticised manifestos, characterising them as a “…set of vague promises that its authors have no intention of keeping.” Instead it has published a Contract with the People. Pledges relating to the environment include:

  • Investing in the environment by planting millions of trees and promoting a global initiative at the United Nations.
  • Scrapping HS2.

Conservative Party: Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential

It is unsurprising, given the circumstances around the decision to hold an election, to see measures in the Conservative manifesto that were previously introduced in the last Parliament. Two of these – the Agriculture Bill and the Environment Bill – are highly relevant to our aspirations. As we have discussed elsewhere, the Agriculture Bill proposes a new system of payments to farmers in exchange for the delivery of public goods, including public access. The Environment Bill would see the establishment of a new independent Office for Environmental Protection and the creation of legally binding environmental improvement targets. Other measures in the manifesto relating to walking and the environment include:

  • Creating a £640 million new Nature for Climate fund.
  • Supporting the creation of a Great Northumberland Forest by the end of the next Parliament.
  • Creating new National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Making the coast to coast path across the North a National Trail.
  • Protecting and enhancing the Green Belt.
  • Helping communities that want to create ‘pocket parks’ and regenerate derelict areas.
  • Extending social prescribing and expanding the new National Academy of Social Prescribing.
  • Considering the findings of the Oakervee review into HS2.

Green Party (England and Wales): If Not Now, When?

At the heart of the Green Party manifesto lies its Green New Deal, a ten-year plan to reduce emissions to net zero by 2030. The Deal would be supported by further programmes of reform, including a Green Quality of Life Guarantee which would focus on restoring the natural environment. Measures in the manifesto relating walking and the environment include:

  • Restoring countryside access by re-opening lost public rights of way and creating new ones and granting people a right to roam in England and Wales.
  • Spending £2.5bn per year on new footpaths and cycleways and creating new links to National Parks.
  • Restoring streets for people by making Low Traffic Neighbourhoods the norm for residential areas and 20mph the default speed limit.
  • Reducing car use by ensuring that new housing is served by high quality walking and cycling routes (and improved bus, tram and local rail services).
  • Encouraging farmers to replant hedgerows.
  • Planting 700 million new trees in both towns and the countryside.
  • Strengthening protections in the Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and encouraging new designations from communities.
  • Scrapping HS2.
  • Increasing funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England to support their work in protecting the environment.

Labour Party: It’s Time for Real Change

In their manifesto, Labour set out their plans for a Green New Deal which “…aims to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030…” The intention is to support this via a Green Industrial Revolution, complemented by a Plan for Nature. Key points in the manifesto that relating to the walking and the environment include:

  • Increasing funding for cycling and walking.
  • Combining transport and land-use planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choice.
  • Reviewing and improving protected areas, from National Parks to local nature reserves and urban green spaces. These will be designed to protect existing wildlife sites and join up important habitats, while also ensuring more people can enjoy living closer to nature.
  • Setting binding targets to drive the restoration of species and habitats.
  • Establishing a new tribunal to ensure that administrative decisions are consistent with environmental and nature-recovery obligations.
  • Developing a programme of tree planting, with both forestry and native species.
  • Increasing funding for the Environment Agency and “other frontline environment agencies”.
  • Repurposing agricultural funding to improve land management and increase sustainable food production.
  • Introducing a Future Generations Wellbeing Act, enshrining health aims in all policies.

Liberal Democrats: Stop Brexit, Build a Brighter Future

The manifesto from the Liberal Democrats details, among other areas, its plans for a Green Society and a Green Economy. This covers measures to improve transport, protect the natural environment and tackle climate change. Pledges relating to walking and the environment include:

  • Increasing the amount of accessible green space through the protection of up to a million acres, completion of the England Coast Path and a new designation of National Nature Parks.
  • Giving the Local Green Space designation the force of law.
  • Developing a nationwide strategy to give a higher priority to walking and cycling.
  • Introducing a Nature Act to restore the environment, with legally binding targets to improve water, air, soil and biodiversity and supported by funding of at least £18bn over five years.
  • Planting 60 million trees.
  • Reductions in agricultural payments to larger recipients and redistributing funding to support delivery of public goods, such as nature restoration and flood prevention.
  • Increasing the budget for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and ensuring that Natural England and the Environment Agency are properly funded.
  • Publishing a National Wellbeing Strategy, putting health and wellbeing for all at the heart of government and implemented by ministers from all departments.
  • Pursuing a Health in All Policies approach so that national and local policies and interventions will only take place after a full impact assessment on people’s mental and physical health. 

Devolved nations

This blog summarises pledges made by parties standing in constituencies across GB. Matters relating to access and the environment are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, with elections to these legislatures scheduled for May 2021. That makes an analysis across manifestos for Plaid Cymru in Wales and the Scottish National Party (SNP), Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Green Party in Scotland more challenging. However, voters in Wales and Scotland are encouraged to review the manifestos of:

The Ramblers manifesto

Our manifesto sets out how the next parliament can support more people to walk and access nature, helping them to become healthier and happier.

Read our manifesto Walking in nature: a manifesto for the next government.