General Election: What the party manifestos say about access to nature

19 June 2024

In the run up to the 2024 general election, our Outdoors Unlocked campaign is calling on all political parties to commit to a transformational new Access to Nature Bill. This bill will break down barriers to the outdoors so everyone in England can enjoy the benefits of walking in nature. 

The main parties in England have now released their manifestos and we’re glad to see they have all written about improving and increasing access to nature. However, some have provided more details on their plans than others. 

Our Outdoors Unlocked campaign is calling for an Access to Nature Bill that delivers in three key areas, against which we’ve analysed the manifestos below: 

  1. Create new opportunities for people to access nature 

  2. Protect and improve the existing paths and access network  

  3. Establish a framework to support public access in the long-term 



1. Create new opportunities for accessing nature 

- Labour have previously announced that they will introduce an Access to Nature White Paper to consult on expanding access rights and opportunities, but this is not specified in their manifesto, which is generally light on detail on access policy. 

- The manifesto does say they will improve responsible access to nature, including the creation of nine new National River Walks and three new National Forests, plant millions of trees and creating new woodlands. They have not specified how access would be supported in these programmes. 

2. Protect and improve the existing paths and access network 

- The manifesto states that they will introduce a land-use framework and make environment land management schemes work for farmers and nature, which could result in improvements to access, but this is not specified. 

3. Establish a long-term framework for public access 

- While they say they will deliver for nature, taking action to meet our Environment Act targets, and will work in partnership with civil society, communities and business to restore and protect our natural world, paths and access are not mentioned in this. 

- Labour also intend to ensure green space is integrated into new developments, as reported in the Guardian article about their intentions for environmental policy published on Thursday 6 June. 


Liberal Democrats 

1. Create new opportunities for accessing nature 

- They say they will significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including protecting up to a million acres, completing the coastal path, exploring a ‘right to roam’ for waterways and creating a new designation of National Nature Parks. 

- They also commit to creating new cycling and walking networks with a new nationwide active travel strategy. 

- There is also mention made of expanding social prescribing and investing in community projects that bring people together to combat loneliness. We’d hope these could include programmes like Wellbeing Walks. 

2. Protect and improve existing the paths and access network 

 - Their manifesto states they will give more of the roads budget to local councils to maintain pavements, as well as cycleways and repairing existing roads. 

- They say they will make it easier for disabled people to access public life, including by adopting new accessibility standards for public spaces, which is welcome. We want this to include paths. 

3. Establish a long-term framework for public access 

 - The Lib Dems’ big initiative on access is to pass a new Environmental Rights Act, which would recognise everyone’s human right to a healthy environment and guarantee access to environmental justice, they say. This could help ensure nature is better protected long term, though it’s not clear how it could include assurances that access to that nature will be improved. 

- They also commit to strengthening the Office for Environmental Protection and providing more funding to the Environment Agency and Natural England. This is welcome, if their instruction to improve access to nature is strengthened with a clear strategy in Environmental Improvement Plans.  



1. Create new opportunities for accessing nature 

- The Conservatives reiterate their commitment to ensure everyone has access to nature within a 15-minute walk from home. This is welcome and we’re looking for more urgency behind developing bold new interventions in order to achieve it. In their manifesto, they list the following means: 

  • Designate an 11th National Park and invest in existing National Parks and protected landscapes 

  • Use future rounds of our Landscape Recovery Scheme to support more local projects 

  • Continue to support programmes that encourage disadvantaged children and young people to access green spaces. 

  • Continue to work with landowners, charities and others to open up more ‘access to nature’ routes. 

  • Complete National Trails (see below) 

- They also say they’ll launch a new design competition for urban greening, focused on the new quarters they want to develop in Leeds, Cambridge and sites in inner London. 

- They mention that they’ll continue to develop the Environmental Land Management Schemes. In government, work continues on integrating payments for access, which is behind schedule. 

2. Protect and improve the existing paths and access network 

- They commit to completing the Coast-to-Coast Path and the King Charles III England Coast Path – it would be rather surprising for them not to. 

3. Establish a long-term framework for public access 

- They say they will improve the accountability of arms-length bodies like Natural England and the Environment Agency, and give them clearer objectives to focus on, but the implication is that this is so that they will give greater priority to economic needs, which can sometimes be unfairly pitched against environmental and access needs. 


All in all, there’s a positive attention to walking outdoors in nature in the manifestos, which gives avenues for our advocacy in future. We look forward to working with politicians to unlock the outdoors. 

We've pulled out some key areas linked to the Ramblers’ ambitions for better access to nature, but you can read and consider the full breadth of each parties proposals online, ahead of casting your vote on July 4th

If you haven’t already, please write to your candidates today and ask them to commit to an Access to Nature Bill! 

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Outdoors Unlocked

We’re calling on the new government to introduce a transformational new Access to Nature Bill. This bill will break down barriers to the outdoors so everyone in England can enjoy the benefits of walking in nature.


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