One of our MPs submitted “Public Access to Nature”

Last Thursday a substantial debate took place in Parliament entitled Public Access to Nature organised by Caroline Lucas the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion. This discussion was held in the Commons Chamber and was very significant. The session lasted for two hours and the people who spoke during the debate were a group of 12 other MPs including a Conservative Minister, Trudy Harrison, who is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. There were another four Conservative MPs although sadly none from Sussex and five Labour MPs including Lloyd Russell-Moyle the Brighton Pavilion MP and also an Independent MP and a Liberal Democrat MP. At the beginning of the discussion Caroline stated

I beg to move, that this House has considered public access to nature. It is a pleasure to open this debate on increasing public access to nature and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for supporting it. In an age where we are increasingly isolated from the natural world, and in a country that ranks lowest in Europe for nature connectedness, improving access to green space could not be more important.

After significant comments from Caroline and contributions from two other MPs, Lloyd-Russell Moyle spoke and he stated

Does the hon. Lady agree that part of the problem with health and income inequalities is that access to nature is not equally distributed in this country? Some of the wealthiest constituencies have far greater access to nature than some of the poorest. That goes along with the historic theft of land by the very wealthiest—facilitated by this place—who stole it from the poorest communities. That has never been properly readdressed.

Following that response, Caroline responded beginning with these first few comments

I agree very much with that point. Inequalities go right through from start to finish in terms of access to the countryside, and I will say more about that, but he also rightly points to the fact that this is nothing new; this is part of a history of land grabbing that has been going on from the enclosures onwards, if not before that. It is something that we need to address if we are serious about wealth inequalities in this country as well as health inequalities, because unless we address the issue of the distribution of land, we are not going to solve that problem.

And a few seconds later she also adds

As the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) set out, we know that access to nature remains incredibly unequal, and covid underlined that. Black people and people of colour, as well as poorer households, are far less likely to live close to green space. Friends of the Earth research suggests that 40% of people from ethnic minority backgrounds live in the most green space-deprived areas, compared with just 14% of white people.

Another MP responded next and then Lloyd-Russell asks

The hon. Lady raises an important point about the ability for councils to use their own estate. Is she looking forward to the exciting plans that we might have in Lewes, as I am?

and Caroline states at the beginning of her next contribution

I am indeed looking forward to exciting plans in Lewes, and I pay tribute to local councillors there.

The first Conservative MP who spoke was Robin Walker who is the MP for Worcester and he began with the call

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion and I congratulate her on securing this very important debate. I want to focus most of my remarks on the importance of access to nature for children and for education. The hon. Lady and I have worked together on campaigns on these issues.

After a few other comments he then stated

I agree with the hon. Lady’s point. One visit that I did during my time as Schools Minister was to a primary school in Hastings and Rye, which was all of a mile and a half from the sea—admittedly up quite a high cliff—and I was struck by the headteacher saying that probably two thirds of the children there had never been to the seaside. That is an extraordinary example of how, even with very small distances, communities sometimes get locked in and do not have that opportunity to go and enjoy the natural resources right on their doorstep.

The other contributions were noteworthy and towards the end of the session the response from Trudy Harrison included her comment

I welcome the successful debate we have had and the contributions on constituencies across the country. I echo the thanks of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion to the folks involved with the “People’s Plan for Nature.”

A few minutes later the final words came from Caroline who finished with this comment

I hope the Minister, as well as answering my questions, will meet me so that we can discuss how we can genuinely move forward on a comprehensive right to roam, which so many people both inside and outside this House want to see. That momentum is growing and the campaign is not going away.

Let us hope that the Minister will agree to meet with Caroline and that the Government will then support the positive calls from these MPs to increase equality of access to green spaces which will be a positive strength for our communities and beyond.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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1 Response to One of our MPs submitted “Public Access to Nature”

  1. Pingback: A very positive response from Wera Hobhouse | ianchisnall

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