To be clear, I think the Government has taken on board some of the Ramblers concerns about the lack of a 'people' aspect to the discussion paper which preceded this White Paper. That discussion paper was heavy on biodiversity but very light on people's access to nature.
Today's White Paper includes a section on 'Reconnecting People to Nature', which sets out the benefits to people when they connect with nature (in terms of their health and well-being) - and the further benefits to nature from this connection (in that people will care for nature more). That's good.
But what the White Paper doesn't do is to acknowledge the huge importance of the natural environment to people's leisure - and thus their health and well-being, and quality of life. There are six million people in Britain who walk for leisure - predominantly in the natural environment - and many others involved in other outdoor leisure pursuits. They do not get much of a look-in with the commitments in the White Paper. This is disappointing.
Which brings me back to the paragraph which appears to be missing. The White Paper includes a sub-section (page 73) entitled 'Connecting by improving access to coast and countryside'. My eyes honed in on this, hoping for a commitment for the next phase of implementation for the English Coastal Route. But, oddly, the paragraphs which follow make no reference to the coast at all! Indeed, I can find no commitments on the coastal route within the document. Was there meant to be a paragraph on coastal access? You would think so.
With the All-Wales Coastal Route set to open next May, England is in danger of falling behind. I accept it needs to be done in phases. But the Government does need to announce, soon, which stretches of coastline it intends to open up next to public access.
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