A coalition of charities led by the Ramblers has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, issuing a warning that the Government is missing vital opportunities in upcoming legislation to improve access to nature.
The opportunity for action is now
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the charities including Friends of the Earth and the UCL Institute for Health Equity, are urging the Government to take urgent action to ensure everyone can connect with the natural world, as they pass laws – including the Environment Bill – which will shape the way we access nature for generations.
Despite repeated commitments from ministers and promises in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan to ensure the natural environment can be used and enjoyed by everyone, the charities say that access to nature is “at the bottom of the pile when it comes to policy decisions and spending”.
Lockdown has reminded us of the importance of nature
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of walking, finding new places to wander and getting to know the walking routes near us. The health and wellbeing benefits of being able to connect to the natural world have become even more important, yet access to green space is still out of reach for too many people.
Research from the Ramblers in 2020 found only 57% of GB adults questioned said that they lived within five minutes’ walk of green space, be it a local park, nearby field or canal path. That figure fell to just 39% for people from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and 46% among all GB adults with a household income of under £15,000 (compared to 63% of those with a household income over £35,000 and 70% over £70,000).
Stephen Russell, Policy and advocacy officer for the Ramblers, said: “The pandemic really brought home the importance of being able to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature in the great outdoors. It’s something that should be available to everyone, but it’s not. And it is people in some of our most disadvantaged communities who are the least likely to have access to high quality green spaces.”
To show there is widespread support across society for change, the Ramblers has launched a petition calling on the Government to make connecting people with nature a priority and to invest in the infrastructure that enables everyone to enjoy walking in nature.