Parliamentarians heard the importance of outdoor recreation

Parliamentarians heard the importance of outdoor recreation

Outdoor representatives urged parliamentarians to support their cause in a ‘speed-briefing’ at Westminster.

The Ramblers, Open Spaces Society and British Mountaineering Council were among bodies lobbying MPs and peers today in an attempt to push the great outdoors into party manifestos.

With the UK’s general election now less than a year away, the all-party parliamentary group for mountaineering organised the meeting to impress on politicians the importance of outdoor recreation, which is estimated to bring a £21bn economic boost to the countryside and also provide a major benefit to the nation’s health and wellbeing.

The 10 groups present urged politicians to adopt six points for their manifestos.

Dave Turnbull, chief executive of the BMC, which jointly organised the event, said: “We want MPs and peers to become champions for outdoor recreation and help turn our six top proposals into policy.

Dave Turnbull: 'health benefits of the outdoors are obvious'

Dave Turnbull: 'health benefits of the outdoors are obvious'

“The benefits of outdoor recreation to health, wellbeing and the economy are becoming increasingly clear and government departments need to work together to maximise the potential.”

The outdoor bodies, which also included the Campaign for National Parks, English Outdoor Council and Outdoor Industries Association, urged Westminster politicians to adopt its proposals:

  • Cross-government support for a long-term strategy on outdoor recreation
  • Increase opportunities for young people to get outside
  • Improve access to coast and countryside
  • Maximise the economic contribution of outdoor recreation
  • Strengthen planning guidance and protect the outdoors
  • Invest in better public transport in rural areas.
Kate Ashbrook: 'green spaces important'

Kate Ashbrook: 'green spaces important'

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body, said: “At times of financial pressure and hardship it is more important than ever that people have good-quality green spaces to enjoy close to home and that we invest in our fine landscapes and people’s ability to gain access to them.”

Benedict Southworth, Ramblers’ chief executive, said: “Outdoor recreation makes a huge contribution towards supporting rural economies yet this value often goes overlooked.

“Political parties need to recognise this in their manifestos and invest in outdoor recreation. Whether it is building the England Coast path, supporting our national trails or opening up public woods, there are many ways they can support the outdoors economy, help rural businesses and build a healthier, happier Britain.”

The groups pointed out people enjoying outdoor recreation spent £21bn in 2012-13 and in the English countryside walkers spend more than £6bn a year, supporting up to 245,000 full-time jobs. In Wales 28m walking-related trips are made to the countryside and coast each year, where walkers spend £632m.

In rural areas the £33bn tourism industry now accounts for 14 per cent of employment and 10 per cent of businesses. Since the start of the recent recession, a third of all jobs created have been in tourism.

The 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, which effectively closed the countryside, cost the tourism industry an estimated £5bn.

Encouraging outdoor activity could reduce the nation’s health bill by £10bn, the groups said.

The Westminster briefing was chaired by MPs David Rutley and John Mann.

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