News Access for All news Outdoors For All manifesto presented to parliament

Outdoors For All manifesto presented to parliament

Access for All news

Fresh breeze on your face, boots crunching up paths well-known and new, the distinctive song of the skylark and the beautiful green-hill views. Every BMC member, from hill-walker to climber, knows how important the outdoors is for our mental and physical well-being. But with only 11% of England and Wales’ wild spaces currently legal for us to wander through, and many city-dwellers having insufficient access to nature and the outdoors, it’s time for us to take this campaign further.

Forty-Two leading national governing bodies and environmental organisations joined together for a parliamentary event to celebrate the Outdoors for All manifesto, seeking to extend responsible access to more green and blue spaces.

The event was held on 6 March 2024 at the Houses of Parliament and sponsored by Tracey Crouch MP and Kim Leadbeater MP. Outdoors For All signatories alongside the BMC include representatives from paddlesport, swimming, horse riding, rambling, cycling and flying, plus the support of National Trust, The Canal & Rivers Trust, The Wildlife Trust and Campaign For National Parks.

The BMC has been campaigning for responsible access for many years but the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that for many, access to our green and blue spaces is not equal, with 19.6 million people living more then a 15-minute walk away from these precious spaces. Working in partnership with so many well-respected outdoor organisations to clearly align plans to help improve this situation means we have a greater possibility of making this reality. The BMC as a campaigning organisation, is keen to see new access rights that allow more people to do more activities in more places, and have the skills, confidence and infrastructure to be able to do so responsibly. We believe now is the time for Government to celebrate, support and realise the potential of climbing and hill walking alongside other outdoor activities.

Dr Catherine Flitcroft, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager at the BMC said, “This event was an important milestone for the Outdoors For All coalition. The past few years have demonstrated that there is a need for more and better access to the outdoors, which those in power have yet to fully realise and embrace. The huge health, economic, and social benefits that access to our green and blue spaces can have are simply not being prioritised. Now is the time for change and the power of this collective demonstrates the urgent need for it. The BMC is proud to support this partnership vision for action.”

Mary-Ann Ochota, BMC Ambassador, said, “Physical inactivity is associated with one in six deaths in the UK and it costs the NHS billions. The Outdoors For All manifesto is an important one – calling for a natural health service for all – where access to nature and the outdoors helps our health, our communities, our environment and our economy.”

Ben Seal, Head of Access and Environment at British Canoeing, said time spent outdoors, in green and blue spaces, is “precious for physical and mental wellbeing”. He said, “[The 42 organisations] came together to create Outdoors for All. We represent millions of members of the public. This is our sector speaking with a collective voice.”

Toby Perkins, Shadow Minister for Nature & Rural Affairs and Labour MP for Chesterfield, said the manifesto was “important” and the passion of every organisation will “drive the agenda on”. He said Labour shared the government’s aim of ensuring every member of the public lives within a 15-minute walk of woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers. However, he added that “about 20 million people currently don’t have that access”.

During his speech, Mr. Perkins said the Labour Party would make sure we all have a right to “responsible access to nature and people from every background can enjoy to the full.” He added that the Environment Land Management scheme was “vitally important” in helping farmers be part of helping people to responsibly access nature.

Secretary of State RT Hon Steve Barclay said it is of “great value” and the “right thing to do” for people to spend more time outdoors to stay healthy. He said the government is looking at “more permissive access” where landowners are incentivised “to open up their land and waterways”.

Kim Leadbeater, Labour MP for Batley & Spen and the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sport said the Outdoors For All manifesto was “everything she believes in” and sport and recreation was “always the answer”. In her speech Ms. Leadbeater said we have a duty, together to tackle health issues, build better communities and combat loneliness.

Ms. Leadbeater shares her passion for sport with Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford. Ms. Crouch said “access is really important” and time outdoors exercising helped her through her cancer journey. She added that the Outdoors For All alliance “totally works” in delivering a single message. “We need to get out there and [find] those people who hard to reach communities and low income groups, something I’m passionate about.”

The government has set its sights on getting 3.5 million more people active by 2030, through its ‘Get Active’ Strategy. It has also committed to giving the public access to green and blue spaces within a 15-minute walk of home, through its Environmental Improvement Plan. The Outdoors For All manifesto argues that to meet these targets, rights to responsibly access the outdoors must be expanded and to do this, we need to introduce new legislation.

READ: The Outdoors for All manifesto