Our countryside here in Mid Sussex is of great importance and I fully appreciate the benefits of outdoor activities, both physically and mentally. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides for a right to roam across open access land, giving the public a right of access to nature including most areas of mountain, moor, heath, down, registered common land and coastal margin. England has a fantastic network of footpaths and the public has the ‘right to roam’ over many areas of wild, open countryside.
I am aware that this Bill, which seeks to amend the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, recently had its Second Reading in Parliament. I am also aware there is a further backbench debate on the 18th May in which, as a Minister, I am unable to participate. However, I will continue to follow this issue and the Bill’s progress and I am assured that the Government is already taking steps to promote access to the countryside.
The Government is supporting and enhancing access to the countryside through the England Coast Path and supporting our network of National Trails. Nearly 800 miles of the England Coast Path are now open and all 2,700 miles will be fully walkable by the end of 2024. The Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 sets out a new and ambitious commitment that everyone should live within 15 minutes walk of a green or blue space.
The £14.5 million Access for All programme included targeted improvements to increase access in some of our most deprived urban areas. The £9 million Levelling Up Parks Fund is improving the condition and availability of green space for over 100 communities in urban areas across the country. The Green Infrastructure Framework will help local authorities and developers incorporate green infrastructure into development plans to improve access to nature on our doorsteps and build resilience to climate change.
Finally, Ministers have also been investing £2 billion in walking and cycling over this Parliament, building hundreds of miles of high-quality cycle lanes increasing access to a range of places including green spaces across the constituency. The Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy includes a commitment to increase opportunities for all children and young people to spend time in nature, learn more about it and get involved in improving their environment.
More information on rights of way and accessing land can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/right-of-way- open-access-land/use-your-right-to-roam