From local parks to National Parks: why we’re calling for a legal right to nature

  • Contributor information: CNP

Our Chief Executive Dr Rose O’Neill explains why we are joining with 60 nature, health, planning and equality organisations to demand ‘a legal right to nature’ in upcoming Levelling Up legislation…

During the last two years, while I have dreamed and planned amazing adventures in National Parks, our local park has sustained my family day-to-day. That small little patch of grass, with swings and a slide, 5 minutes-walk from our home, has been the pressure-release valve. It’s been the place for after-school letting off steam, a dash on a rainy day between downpours, or a “come on, we’re driving each other mad, let’s get out of the house” destination. It has been a life-line.

We’re not the only ones. That few acres must have a catchment of thousands – there’s always someone there. My previous work leading Natural England’s People and Nature Survey during the pandemic revealed that nine in ten of us reported being in nature was a boost for their physical and mental health. Local parks and greenspaces were the most visited, hardly surprising when you consider one in four households don’t have a car.

Unequal access

We’re lucky though – we have a little nice park that’s in walking distance. Yes, it could and should work much harder for nature; I’d love to see more plants and trees, birds and bees. I’d love it to be a more inclusive and welcoming space, inviting to those beyond current users (young families, dog-walkers and teenagers, depending on the time of day). But still, we are fortunate in that we are part of the two thirds of the population who report such a place is within easy walking distance or a high enough quality to spend time in.

I read this morning about a ‘second pandemic’ of mental health issues, with over 8 million people needing help. There’s now a weight of strong scientific evidence, including that published by Public Health England, of the significant role the natural environment plays in good physical and mental health, and how inequalities in access to nature are contributing to inequalities to health outcomes. A right to good quality nature is a no-brainer – a solution that will heal people and planet, improve our resilience as well as making places more resilient to climate change. Yet, it was largely absent from the government’s recent Levelling Up White Paper.

Nature connecton and National Parks

Nature connection, begets nature connection. Our mission at Campaign for National Parks is to inspire everyone to look after and enjoy National Parks. We think, to do this, everyone must have access to nature on their doorstep, as well as the amazing, full technicolour awe and wonder available in a National Park. Often, it’s the small scale local experiences that leads people onto the bigger National Park exploration – as demonstrated by one of our National Parks: New Perspectives bursary holders City Girl in Nature who, until last year, did not know what a National Park was and is now rapidly ticking them off her must-visit list. 

That’s why we’ve joined forces with more than 60 nature, health, planning and equality organisations to demand ‘a legal right to nature’ in upcoming Levelling Up legislation. The Government has promised that its “levelling up” agenda – will create equal opportunity and quality of life for everyone around the country. But this can only succeed if it includes levelling up access to nature.

Help us to hold Government to its promises, add your name to our petition to demand #NatureForEveryone > SIGN NOW!