Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about access to nature and green spaces.
I have always believed that everyone should have access to nature. During the pandemic, people have gained a greater appreciation of nature, green spaces and local parks and I agree we must support the rights of all to access nature.
I am committed to improving public access to land for recreational and educational purposes. There is huge public enthusiasm for greater access to the countryside and such access provides clear mental and health physical benefits.
However, I understand that there are constraints on this access, with public roads blocked, car parks full and footpaths overrun, and access limited to established, well-trodden paths. I do not believe that love of the countryside will subside once the pandemic is over, so we need a new contract with landowners to make sure everyone can benefit from the peace and tranquillity of nature.
The Government states it believes public access to nature is a fundamentally good thing and that it is working on a cross-governmental approach to increase access to green space. It also says that it has recently awarded £80 million to nature-based projects across England as part of its Green Recovery Challenge Fund, and that it will continue to pay for heritage, access and engagement through existing environmental land management schemes.
I welcomed the provisions in the Agriculture Act which will reward landowners for opening up new routes of access across their land but I am disappointed that greater public access was not part of one of the Government’s first sustainable farming initiative pilots.
I can assure you I will continue to champion rights of way and the right to roam so that everyone can access nature, whoever they are or wherever they live.