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Nature For Everyone Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is access to nature so important?

We should all be able to experience the joys and benefits of wildlife in our daily lives.

Evidence shows that even seeing nature through a window has a positive impact on our health. Creating more, and better, natural spaces and protecting and improving those we already have, will boost our mental and physical wellbeing, delivering billions of pounds in cost savings to the NHS and creating thousands of jobs.

This is also critical for the future of nature. The Government has a legally-binding commitment to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030, but much more action is needed. Wildlife is in long-term decline and we will never be able to restore nature if so many communities are left bereft of natural spaces.

When duties on developers and public bodies to bring nature to people’s doorsteps are included in the Levelling Up Bill, it will help to guarantee access to nature for all.

  • What’s this got to do with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill?

The planning system is central to delivering accessible natural spaces where we live. Planning reforms are being taken forward in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and offer us a vital opportunity to ensure equality in everyone’s access to nature.

We are asking Government to agree to an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that will require local planning authorities to prioritise addressing health inequalities, with improving access to nature as an essential part of local plan. Backed up with resources for Local Authorities from the Levelling Up fund, this could transform our parks, woods and watersides, making a huge difference for our people, public places and public health.

  • What is wrong with the current system?

A huge local authority funding gap is largely to blame, with an estimated £190 million lost from local authority parks budgets alone since 2016. But Local Authorities don’t currently have strong enough legal requirements and enforcement duties to hold developers to account, or enough resources to create more and maintain local natural spaces.

Many existing neighbourhoods don’t have good nature access, and when developers do include natural spaces in new developments these are often small, badly planned and not well-maintained. Add to this that all too often, the public natural spaces we have are run-down and unpleasant places to visit.

Local Authorities need new legal duties they can enforce and resources from the Levelling Up fund to deliver the natural spaces that will benefit local communities, wildlife, and the NHS.

  • What can I do?

Back our campaign.

Show your support for more access to nature for everyone - you can sign our petition here and share it with your friends so they can get involved too.

Tell us where the grey could be greener.

We’d love to see photos and hear about your experiences of nature near you (for example where you live, work, or visit). Post online using this hashtag #NatureForEveryone (include @WCL_News in Tweets).

  • I don’t live in England, can I still get involved?

Yes! Our campaign is aimed at new laws being developed for England, but everyone can help show the Government that there is public interest, and support, for more and better natural spaces. And we will all benefit when there are!

  • Why is access to nature currently so unequal?

The most disadvantaged and excluded neighbourhoods are the least likely to have accessible nature-rich spaces within a short distance of people’s homes, and the most likely to have parks, waterways and other natural spaces in poor condition. Poor planning and design means nature often wasn’t incorporated at the start, and barriers like poor transport links, lack of walkways or safe crossings make accessing the natural spaces that there are close by difficult.

This lack of access to thriving nature is compounded by safety concerns and societal barriers {such as: lack of awareness of, or confidence in natural spaces; social isolation; experiences or worries of harassment or abuse; and lack of inclusive design of natural spaces) which prevent people from feeling comfortable and welcome in shared natural spaces.

If the Government is serious in Levelling Up quality of living and opportunity it must start by improving the state of nature in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and the infrastructure behind them, helping to improve the health and well-being of thousands of communities.

  • What do you mean by ‘high-quality nature’/'nature-rich spaces’?

In place of sparsely planted parks dominated by run-down concrete playgrounds, we want to see thriving wildlife, abundant habitats and natural play and picnic areas. Bleak cracking river paths can be transformed into avenues of blossoming trees with thriving reedbeds, fish, insects and birds. These enhanced natural spaces will provide natural flood, climate-change and pollution defences, and homes for wildlife, alongside being great places to walk, cycle and socialise.

All natural spaces in communities should be well-designed and varied, to help people and wildlife to thrive side by side. Strict standards will be needed on the quality and quantity of nature expected in these spaces, which our campaign aims to secure.

In addition to being well-managed to enhance wildlife, these spaces should optimise exercise, play and relaxation and deliver for our climate.

  • What do you mean by ‘equal access’ to nature?

All people should have accessible nature-rich spaces nearby their homes, as well as access to larger, wilder natural spaces in the landscape. The Government recognises this, with Natural England recommending access for everyone to a natural space around a football pitch in size within 5 minutes walk of home, and wilder natural space of 500 hectares plus (15x the size of London’s St James’ Park) within 10 km.

As well as good provision, natural spaces must be in good condition with abundant wildlife, and accessible for all members of the community. While people from all walks of life value nature, there are particular access barriers for disabled people, people from ethnic minorities, women, older people, and those living in deprived communities.

All people should both be able to access natural spaces and feel safe and comfortable there. This means addressing a range of physical and social barriers for different people in accessing nature, from wheelchair accessible paths, to community engagement schemes and staff presence. Involving the local community is vital to help create and maintain places that they value and protect.

  • How would this benefit my community?

More and better accessible natural spaces means more birds, bees, trees and plants to enjoy; better places to exercise, relax and socialise; less pressure on NHS services and a boost for local jobs. It also means that ethnic minorities and those with low incomes, who are currently most likely to miss out, will get the access to nature they need and deserve.

Research shows that - from simply listening to birdsong to canoeing - access to nature helps our mental and physical health. Happier and healthier communities, with nature at their heart, are less susceptible to health problems from depression, to high blood pressure and obesity. And creating, improving and maintaining these nature-rich spaces will also create opportunities for new local jobs.

It is estimated that if the Government invests £5.5 bn over 3 years to deliver nature-rich spaces across the country, it would achieve £200 billion in NHS savings, 40,000 jobs and greenspaces for 3,500 deprived communities.

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