The management of England's national trails is under consideration by the Government

The management of England's national trails is under consideration by the Government

Britain’s biggest walking charity called on the coalition Government to kick-start a number of stalled commitments to the outdoors.

The Ramblers made its plea at the launch of Nature Check 2012, a report by the Wildlife and Countryside Link, which found that only two out 20 Government commitments warranted a green light on its traffic light scale.

The organisation, of which the Ramblers is part, said amber-rated issues, where projects have been delayed or under delivered, include access to and enjoyment of the countryside.

The Ramblers said: “Although steady progress is being made on the implementation of the English coastal path, timetables cannot afford to slip and improvements must continue into the New Year.

“The public outcry caused by the threat to the public forest estate showed government how deeply people care about our countryside and the Forestry panel’s final report was warmly received.

“But we still await a promise from government to once and for all abandon the sell-off of the public forest estate, to take forward the panel’s proposals to make public access to all woodland the norm.”

The charity said consultations are also underway on a number of other key issues which could have an impact on the public’s ability to use and enjoy the natural environment.

This includes pending decisions on the future of national trails; on rights of way consultation and on town and village green reform.

The Ramblers are calling for the Government to back up its rhetoric about the importance of accessing the natural environment, and the health, social and economic benefits this brings with a renewed commitment to increase and improve the public’s ability to access the countryside.

Chief executive Benedict Southworth said: “We cannot afford for the Government to be lukewarm about access to and enjoyment of our countryside.

Benedict Southworth: 'Government can't be lukewarm about access'

Benedict Southworth: 'Government can't be lukewarm about access'

“Our paths and green spaces are gateways to the countryside, providing endless opportunities for people to get outdoors and get active through walking and other activities, and the multiple benefits that come along with it.

“We want to see a renewed commitment to the natural environment and the public benefits it brings, and see current slow progress sped up to achieve this.

“With decision time looming on forests, rights of way and the future of our national trails, there’s an opportunity for government to prove that it truly recognises the enormous value of access to our countryside and is committed to protecting and enhancing it.

“The progress that is being made needs to continue and improve. It is time to protect the places people love most with renewed vigour.”

Owen Paterson, due to receive the report today

Owen Paterson, due to receive the report today

The Nature Check 2012 report was due to be presented to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson at a parliamentary reception today.

A ComRes survey by the Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of 39 leading environmental charities found less than a quarter think the Government is doing enough to protect landscapes and wildlife – on land and at sea.

The poll also found that 84 per cent of people think that the natural environment boosts their quality of life, with 81 per cent wanting to see the natural environment and its wildlife protected at all costs.

Only 17 per cent of people agreed that this is the ‘greenest government ever.’

The survey, published today, shows the public agrees with Nature Check 2012, which tracks the Government’s progress since 2011 against 20 of its own major commitments to the natural environment.

Nature Check 2012 found that, while some progress has been made, the Government needs to do much more to secure a healthy and thriving natural environment.

The report is Wildlife and Countryside Link’s second assessment of the Coalition Government’s progress and the ‘traffic-light’ assessment shows the coalition achieving ‘green’ on just two of its 20 commitments – protection of whales and of elephants.

Of the remaining 18, the Government is failing on four – red – and making moderate, but insufficient, progress on 14 – amber.

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