21st February 2022

POLICY: A Legal Right to Local Nature

We are delighted to be supporting the new Nature for Everyone campaign which has been launced today. In her latest blog, our Chief Executive Helen Griffiths explains why the campaign is so important and why were are getting involved, as well as discussing how you can get involved as well.

Fields in Trust is joining with around 60 other organisations in the Nature For Everyone campaign, making a collective call for a 'legal right to nature' to be a key component of the Government's Levelling-Up reforms.

The wide-ranging coalition - including green space charities, wildlife campaigns, sports organisations and mental health charities - demonstrates that access to green space makes positive contributions in so many facets of our lives. For health, wellbeing, our neighbourhood connections and the natural environment: parks and green spaces close to home, where we can access nature, are a crucial element of our community infrastructure.

We already know from our own Green Space Index analysis that there are 2.8 million people in Great Britain who live more than a ten-minute walk from their nearest public green space. New research conducted for the Wildlife and Countryside Link campaign finds that 85% of people in nature-deprived areas say more natural spaces would improve their quality of life.

Almost half (49%) of British adults are aware of natural spaces in their local area which have been lost to, or are currently at risk from, development. This figure rises to 7 in 10 people in the most nature-deprived areas. Around 83% of respondents want greater protections of green space to prevent loss to development and a similar percentage say having access to local, natural spaces is more important post-pandemic.

I have written before about how parks and green spaces deliver impacts across the range of social policy agendas yet remain undervalued for the multiple benefits they contribute to our communities. The Government has promised that its "levelling up" agenda will create equal opportunity and improve quality of life for everyone around the country. But this can only succeed if it includes levelling up access to nature.

Almost half (49%) of British adults are aware of natural spaces in their local area which have been lost to, or are currently at risk from, development. This figure rises to 7 in 10 people in the most nature-deprived areas.

Grass roped off by closed sign

However, this is not simply a reset of the dial. The Government's levelling-up approach aspires to a fundamental shift towards equity and access in left-behind neighbourhoods. For that to work, long-term access to natural spaces should be guaranteed for the benefit of future generations. New legislation could include a duty to protect parks and green spaces in perpetuity. Although there is no statutory duty in place, hundreds of local authorities have recognised the value of local parks and green spaces and adopted the Fields in Trust Deed of Dedication as a legal mechanism to ensure parks and green spaces are independently safeguarded.

Urban parks provide places for play and relaxation as well as enjoyment of the natural world. These green spaces help mitigate the worst effects of climate change, boost air quality and support biodiversity. Multifunctional green spaces delivering multiple advantages. Yet regional disparities mean that public access is not equitable. Vulnerable communities are missing out on many benefits, across the range of social policy agendas, that parks and green spaces contribute. We need to act to guarantee access to these spaces for our current and future wellbeing.

The 'Nature For Everyone' coalition is calling on the Government to respond to the enormous public demand for access to local green space and better protections for our urban parks and green spaces by adding a 'legal right to local nature' to forthcoming Levelling-Up legislation. We would urge you to join us and sign the petition to the Government so that everyone can benefit from a 'legal right to local nature', forever.

Sign the petition




Helen GriffithsHelen Griffiths is Fields in Trust's Chief Executive. She can be contacted by any of the below means.

t: 0207 427 2110
e: helen.griffiths@fieldsintrust.org


Helen Griffiths is Fields in Trust's Chief Executive and is an experienced and knowledgeable commentator on issues related to parks, playing fields and recreational spaces. Follow Helen on Twitter @hegriffiths.