Access to Nature

Thank you for contacting me about access to nature. Due to commitments in the constituency, I was unable to attend the debate on 18th May. However, I understand there was good cross-party participation with MPs reflecting on the nature and green spaces in their own areas.

As the Minister responding mentioned during the debate, the Environmental Improvement Plan was published in January, and it includes a commitment to ensure that everyone lives within 15 minutes' walk of a green or blue space. Through the £14.5m ‘Access for All’ programme, the Government has targeted measures to improve access to our protected landscapes and countryside. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is working to complete the England Coast Path which will be the longest waymarked and maintained coast walking route in the world.

Meanwhile, through programmes with the Community Forests and Forestry England, Ministers are creating large-scale, publicly accessible woodlands near towns and cities. Defra supports land managers to provide woodland access through the Countryside Stewardship and England Woodland Creation Offer schemes. The Environmental Land Management promotes long-term permissive access for recreation, bringing people closer to nature and contributing to the rural economy.

Defra will retain the deadline for registering historic rights of way, as originally intended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Given delays caused by Covid-19, the Secretary of State extended this deadline by five years from 1 January 2026 to 1 January 2031. Other reforms focus on the recording of historic rights of way. Additionally, local authorities will have increased powers to reject weakly evidenced applications, ignore irrelevant objections and agree appropriate modifications directly with landowner, and to correct obvious administrative errors on the definitive map through a significantly shortened process.

Thank you again for contacting me.