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Public Access to Nature

Volume 730: debated on Thursday 30 March 2023

Connectivity to rural areas is vitally important to us. As I have already set out this morning, we are spending millions on ensuring that rural areas thrive and that people have access to nature.

As the Minister knows, goal 10 of the environmental improvement plan is to enhance engagement with the natural environment. Saving historic footpaths is a vital way of doing that, so it is a bit bizarre, given there is already a backlog of more than 4,000 applications waiting to be processed to save those footpaths, that the Government have reneged on their promise to scrap the deadline in the mapping review, without any plan to address that backlog. Will the Minister rethink that short-sighted decision, so that we do not risk losing 40,000 miles of precious footpaths forever?

Actually, that decision was taken in 2000, and we have extended the date from 2026 to 2031. I remind the hon. Member of the measures that we are taking to improve access to nature with Natural England and the commitment for people to be within 15 minutes of a blue or green area, as well as with the national trails and the designation of the coast to coast as a national trial. The England coastal path is 2,700 miles around England that people can access. In fact, people can access most coastal, common, fell, moorland and heathland areas across the country, but there is a balance between access for the public, the protection of nature and ensuring that the lives of people in rural areas and their livelihoods thrive.