Letter to the Prime Minister on Equal Access to Nature

This is the letter that, this morning (18 November 2020), we have sent to Boris Johnson MP, the Prime Minister of the UK:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you at a crucial moment in your Government’s term and ahead of the major 2021 year for the environment. Your Government is also about to announce its spending priorities for the next year through its Spending Review. We are writing to call on you, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, to use the Spending Review to invest in increased access to nature.

Your Government has said it will make the environment one of its priorities and achieve a green recovery from coronavirus, lockdown and the economic recession we find ourselves in. At the time of writing we are part-way through a new lockdown of at least four weeks, which will only underscore how important access to green spaces is for many people across our country.Your Government also plans to introduce some of the biggest reforms to the planning system in England for generations. 

These are crucial opportunities to make sure that people across our country have greater access to high quality green spaces near to where they live. The evidence shows very clearly that people in urban areas and the most deprived in society face greater barriers to accessing green spaces.

We are writing to you particularly on behalf of young people across the UK who care passionately about our wildlife and nature. In the UK, nature and wildlife are in perilous decline, with 41% of species falling in numbers. The UK is only due to meet 4 of its 19 global biodiversity targets this year. At the same time, people in our towns and cities are often deprived of access to high quality green spaces that are accessible from where they live.

It is unacceptable and immoral that young people today are growing up with hazardous air pollution, depleted soils, polluted rivers and without being able to enjoy the flocks of birds and wonders of butterflies (as well as many other species) that your generation grew up with only a few decades ago. Our country’s natural beauty and resources are being ravaged and there is little sign yet that your Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan has begun to turn the tide on the nature and ecological emergency we are in.

Your proposed planning reforms, and future spending decisions by your Government are unmissable opportunities to undo these injustices. The lack of access to green spaces entrenches existing divisions within society: those from black or other ethnic minorities, those on lower incomes and young people are all much less likely to have access to private green space. Research for the National Trust has shown that in areas where ethnic minorities make up over 40% of the population there is 11 times less access to public green space.

We are aware that your Government may only be able to influence these outcomes across England, but we would encourage you to work with the devolved administrations to achieve the same outcomes right across the UK.

Your Government can help the nations of the world to broker a new relationship with nature and to set stretching new targets that will heal nature and the climate through the UN biodiversity and climate conferences in 2021. But the UK’s international credibility will only hold if it is backed up with action back home. You can help to tackle both the nature crisis and the great inequalities in accessing green space in our society by:

  • Investing £10 billion in improving the quality of existing urban green spaces and in doubling the area of urban green space in the UK.
  • Making existing urban green spaces, parks and Local Wildlife Sites protected designations in your planning reforms, and requiring planning authorities to identify potential new areas for urban green spaces and parks and exclude those from development through Local Plans.
  • Ensuring that planning reforms maximise opportunities for green and blue space to be built into new developments, including green architectural features.
  • Investing £1 billion in a Get Outdoors Initiative to educate and engage urban communities, particularly young people, in nature and the outdoors.
  • Conducting an urgent review of all high-carbon infrastructure (such as new roads and airport infrastructure) to ensure it is compatible with the UK’s 2050 net zero target. Where it is not compatible, the hundreds of billions of pounds due to be invested in this infrastructure should be diverted to new active travel measures and local public transport: bus routes, cycle lanes and infrastructure, bridleways and public footpaths.
  • Restoring urban wildlife sites to good condition – at present almost half of SSSIs in urban areas (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) are in a poor condition and 100% of these should be managed and restored to good condition.
  • Providing local and regional authorities with sufficient funding to support schemes, projects, programmes and community groups in their area that are already helping people to connect with nature but that urgently need increased resources to improve and widen this work.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these and other ideas that we have with you and members of your Government at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

Matt Williams, Co-Director and Founder, UK Youth for Nature

Talia Goldman, Co-Director, UK Youth for Nature

Signatories:

Peter Mcintyre, Operations Lead and Leadership Coach, 3 Pillars 

Lauren Cox, Policy and Campaigns Officer, A Focus on Nature

Beth Wright, Environment and Sustainability Officer, Aberystwyth Students Union

Accidentally Vegan UK 

Hendrikus van Hensbergen, Chief Executive, Action for Conservation

Dr. Andrea Mechelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health, King’s College London

Mya-Rose Craig, Black2Nature

Black Environment Network

Black Girls Camping Trip 

Rhiane Fatinikun, Black Girls Hike

British Caving Association

British Mountaineering Council 

Cameron Bespolka Trust 

The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management 

Lucas Ruzo, CEO, Citizen Zoo

Climate Reframe (Doc Society)

Co.Laboratory

Countryside Jobs Service 

CPRE, the countryside charity

Dr. Alison Greenwood, Director and Lead Psychologist, Dose of Nature, UK

Forest School Association

Henry Greenwood, Managing Director, Green Schools Project 

Heal Rewilding 

Imperial College Environmental Society

Kendal Activists Saving The Little Earth

Nathan Jackson, Founder, Mental Health Monster

Muslim Scout Fellowship 

National Youth Agency

Stefan Batorijs, Director and Founder, Nature and Therapy, UK 

Nature Premium Campaign 

Nottingham Wildlife Trust Wild Youth Forum

Outward Bound Trust

Georgina Wilson-Powell, Founder, Pebble Magazine

Miles King, CEO, People Need Nature  

Reserva: The Youth Land Trust

The Rivers Trust 

Linda Philips, Director, Roots and Shoots 

Dr. Halima Begum, Director, Runnymede Trust

Myles Farnbank, Vice-Chair, Scottish Adventure Activities Forum (SAAF)

Sheffield Environmental Movement (SEM)

Solidaritree

Kieron McGlasson, Director, Sow the City

The Schools, Students and Teachers network 

Straight Forward Science 

Students Organising for Sustainability – UK 

UK Student Climate Network 

Trees for Cities

Carrie Starbuck, Managing Director, Urban Growth 

Dr. Stephen Head, Wildlife Gardening Forum 

The Wild Network

Wilderness Foundation UK

Women’s Environmental Network

Woodland Trust

YorScience 

Youth Climate Association NI 

Supporters:

Joe Burton, Education Manager, the Linnean Society of London 

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