Thirty six leading national governing bodies and environmental organisations have joined together to support an Outdoors For All manifesto, seeking to extend responsible access to more green and blue landscapes.
The Outdoors For All coalition is calling for new legislation to open up more of our countryside, including waterways, woodland, riversides and downland for public enjoyment.
A new bill will create opportunities for people to enjoy more land and water for activities including cycling, walking, climbing, horse riding, caving, swimming, flying and paddling.
The UK ranks lowest of 14 European nations on connectedness to nature. It also ranks 11th out of 15 European nations on levels of physical activity. Nations that rank higher than the UK, have far more freedom to enjoy their outdoor spaces.
Signatories include representatives from paddlesport, swimming, horse riding, climbing, rambling, wheeling, flying and many more. The manifesto also has the support of National Trust, The Canal & Rivers Trust, The Wildlife Trust and Campaign For National Parks.
The government has set its sights on getting 3.5 million more people active by 2030, through its Sporting Future 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.
Less than 4% of rivers in England have an uncontested public right of access. The path network is frequently inaccessible and 19.6 million people do not live within a 15-minute walk of green and blue spaces.
Access land which gives us our current and limited right to roam covers just 8% of England. This right extends only to those on foot and excludes others such as equestrians, paddlers and cyclists.
Physical inactivity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK and is estimated to cost the country £7.4 billion annually (including £0.9 billion to the NHS). Our population is 20% less active than in the 1960s and is forecast to be 30% less active by 2030. It is estimated that good access to green and blue spaces would save an astonishing £2.1 billion in health spending every year.
Earlier in the year, alongside the launch of the BMC’s EDI strategy, we also demonstrated that a range of barriers can prevent those who need it most getting outside: economic barriers; working long hours, lack of private transport, expensive equipment – and cultural barriers. Our outdoor spaces lack diversity compared to the country as a whole.
Dr Catherine Flitcroft, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager, British Mountaineering Council said:
“The outdoors really is for everyone and the past few years have demonstrated this. And yet those in power have yet to fully realise the huge health, economic, and social benefits of this – for too long access to our green and blue spaces has not been seen as a priority and it’s heart-warming to know that so many of us believe this needs to change. The BMC is proud to support this partnership vision for action.”
Following the launch of the document, signatories will then be attending a Westminster event early in Spring 2024 to talk to Ministers and MPs from across the country to highlight the importance of the outdoors to the health of the nation and the need for new legislation to focus efforts and ensure progress.
WATCH: Outdoors For All
Studies and evidence have shown that economic barriers; working long hours, lack of private transport, expensive equipment – and cultural barriers; no family or community traditions of the outdoors, lack of role models – as well as someone’s age, health and other factors, has tilted the land in favour of wealthier demographics. Our outdoor spaces lack diversity compared to the country as a whole.
Working alongside people with lived experience, we have created a film to illustrate this: