On Monday I wrote a blog focused on the debate that Caroline Lucas organised last Thursday entitled Public Access to Nature and The Argus newspaper printed it out under the headline of ‘We are increasingly isolated from nature’. That content is available here and this is the link to the full debate. Inevitably there were many other aspects that could not be included in the piece on Monday. So here are the contributions from Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath and the initial response from Caroline is here
Wera: I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate, of which I am a co-sponsor. Does she agree that, along with access to nature, we need restoration of nature? Local authorities can lead the way, but they need the money, and it is so important that our urban communities in particular can benefit from local authorities restoring nature where they can.
Caroline: I thank the hon. Member for her intervention and very much agree with the point she makes. Local authorities have a vital role to play, and yet their budgets have been slashed over the past 13 years.
Then later Wera responded to Robin Walker who had been speaking and this was his initial response to Wera.
Wera: The hon. Member makes a great case for young people needing to have access to nature, but because there is so little directly accessible in their local area, they often have to travel a very long way. Does it not make sense to open up more nature, so that people do not have to travel, but have it on their doorstep?
Robin: I absolutely recognise that, which is why it is important that councils work together with voluntary groups to make sure that we signpost those green spaces. In my own consistency, which is an urban constituency— Worcester is surrounded by beautiful countryside, I accept —we have seen a fantastic local project by the Worcester Environmental Group and the council to develop the Wild about Worcester Way, a walking route around the city. It connects green spaces in the city and accessible areas such as the Worcester Woods country park, Nunnery wood and Perry wood, where Cromwell allegedly met the devil, to our primary schools, so that there are walking routes for children to enjoy. In areas where they might not enjoy great parks and facilities, to link schools, through active travel, to such places is important.
Later on Wera responded to the Rachael Maskell comment and that was followed by a response from Rachael
Wera: In the south-west, only 5% of land is accessible to the public. A lot of green-belt land is privately owned and therefore not accessible to them. Does the hon. Lady agree that part of the plan should be to open up green-belt land to the right to roam?
Rachael: I absolutely agree. The historic injustice in who owns our land across our country has to be addressed. We have much work to do on that. The environmental improvement plan does not address those issues, which must be addressed, so that everybody can have access to our natural environment.
These comments from Wera were very positive and they added a great deal of value to the Public Access to Nature from Caroline Lucas who set out this debate.