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Open letter to Prime Minister published to extend Countryside and Rights of Way Act

An open letter to Boris Johnson was published today (30 November 2020) to mark the 20th anniversary of the Countryside and Right of Way Act.

The letter has been signed by 101 household names who have voiced their support of a campaign to open up more land and rivers for responsible public access. 

The letter is part of the Right To Roam campaign and proposes an urgent extension of the Countryside and Rights of Way act, to cover Rivers, Woodland and Green Belt land. These three terrains have been highlighted because they offer the most amount of health benefits to the most amount of people.

Right To Roam campaigner, Nick Hayes, said:  “The signatories to this letter have enchanted millions of people with their art, music, writing and acting, celebrating the essential connection that we feel with nature. Yet in England, the law actively discourages the public from accessing nature. We’re calling on the Prime Minister to give the people of England greater freedom to roam in our woods, on our rivers, and over Green Belt land.”

We’re calling on the Prime Minister to give the people of England greater freedom to roam in our woods, on our rivers, and over Green Belt land

– Nick Hayes

The letter goes on to say that rather than cause an increase in litter and vandalism to the countryside, the extension of the CRoW act would revitalise a crucial connection between nature and people that has been lost, an essential step towards a greater concern towards the countryside, the environment, and climate.

“Lockdown has demonstrated how vital it is for us to have access to green outdoor space, both for our physical and our mental health,” the signatories write. “There is now a body of scientific evidence showing just how essential nature is for our wellbeing.” Yet, as the letter points out, access to green space remains starkly unequal.

“Access to nature is unequal: one in eight British households has no garden, and Black people in England are nearly four times as likely as White people to have no outdoor space at home.”

“There is now a body of scientific evidence showing just how essential nature is for our wellbeing. A simple walk in the woods can boost our immune system for a month afterwards. Exercising in a green space can help combat ADHD in children, and obesity, stress and depression in adults. Physical inactivity costs the NHS around £1bn per year, and wider society around £7.4bn per year. So let’s follow the science: to improve the health of our nation, to alleviate the pressure on the NHS, we need greater access to nature.

Guy Shrubsole added:

“Extending Right to Roam would be a bold and far-reaching act by this Government, and its effects would resonate for generations to come. Now, more than ever, the time is ripe to give people the freedom to reconnect with nature, for the sake of public health.

“Freedom to roam does not mean the freedom to trample or litter. We need to strengthen and promote the Countryside Code, to teach respect for the essential work of farmers and encourage a culture of care and love for the countryside through early years education.

“Our children must learn about nature in the best way possible: by actually being in it. Only with a visceral, lived experience of nature can we grow to really care for it.”

The list of signatories is a broad church, including electronica producers, Shakespearean actors, conceptual artists, folk musicians and nature writers, each expressing through their work a love and fascination for nature, a sentiment shared by their millions of fans and followers, a sentiment that is actively prohibited by the laws of England.

The full letter can be found here.

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