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Swim England joins coalition to support Outdoors For All manifesto

A ‘powerful’ coalition of more than 40 leading national governing bodies and environmental organisations have joined forces to urge politicians to allow greater access to ‘nature rich spaces’.

The Outdoors For All manifesto calls for new legislation to open up more of the UK’s countryside, including waterways, woodlands, riversides and downland for public enjoyment.

A new bill would create opportunities for people to enjoy more land and water for activities including swimming, paddling, cycling, walking, climbing, horse riding, caving and flying.

Swim England is among the 41 organisations to support the manifesto, which was handed over to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Stephen Barclay.

More than 100 people gathered in Parliament for the launch, which was also attended by Labour’s Shadow Minister for Nature and Rural Affairs, Toby Perkins.

Other signatories supporting the manifesto include representatives from swimming, paddlesport, horse riding, climbing, rambling, wheeling, flying and many more.

The manifesto also has the support of National Trust, The Canal & Rivers Trust, The Wildlife Trust and Campaign For National Parks.

The Outdoors For All vision is for a natural health service that is free and available for all with:

  • More people, more active, more often.
  • Nature rich spaces that everyone can access.
  • A commitment to respect, protect and enjoy our special green and blue spaces.

Philip Brownlie, Swim England head of public affairs, who attended the launch, said: “We know how brilliant swimming outdoors is for people’s physical and mental wellbeing but concerns around access is a barrier to further growth.

“We want even more people to be able to enjoy our rivers, seas and lakes and that’s why Swim England is pleased to be part of this powerful group of organisations.”

The UK currently ranks lowest of 14 European nations on connectedness to nature.

It also ranks 11th out of 15 European nations on levels of physical activity – and countries that rank higher than the UK have far more freedom to enjoy their outdoor spaces.

Unified voice

The Government has set its sights on getting 3.5 million more people active by 2030, through its ‘Get Active’ Strategy.

It has also committed to giving the public access to green and blue spaces within a 15-minute walk of home, through its Environmental Improvement Plan.

The Outdoors For All manifesto argues that to meet these targets, rights to responsibly access the outdoors must be expanded.

Less than four per cent of rivers in England have an uncontested public right of access, while the path network is frequently inaccessible and 19.6m people do not live within a 15-minute walk of green and blue spaces.

Meanwhile, access land, which gives current and limited right to roam, covers only eight per cent of England.

This right extends only to those on foot and excludes others.

The Outdoors For All manifesto says physical inactivity is associated with one in six deaths in the UK and is estimated to cost the country £7.4bn annually (including £0.9bn to the NHS).

Our population is 20 per cent less active than in the 1960s and is forecast to be 30 per cent less active by 2030.

It is estimated that good access to green and blue spaces would save an astonishing £2.1bn in health spending every year.

Ben Seal, head of access and environment at British Canoeing, said: “I am extremely proud British Canoeing is part of the Outdoors For All coalition.

“With a general election on the horizon, it is so important that we speak with a unified voice.

“Outdoors For All sets out a really compelling case for change. We have a real opportunity now to create a lasting legacy for the next generation.”

To read the Outdoors For All manifesto, please click here.