A proposal to introduce a right-to-roam bill in England is set to be scrapped as weak-minded labour leaders crumble under pressure from landowners.
The UK is supposed to be a democracy in which the majority vote of the people is supposed to become law. Yet despite more than 60% of the population being in favour of right-to-roam legislation, a promise made by Labour if they are elected, has already been ditched.
Only 5% of Englanders strongly opposed the policy.
A recent spate of public campaigns in favour of the right to roam has raised the awareness of thousands of people. Not many UK residents realise that only 8% of England’s countryside is open to the public and 97% of rivers are off limits.
The reason for that is because 92% of the land in England is privately owned — and by a minority clutch of aristocratic families. Guy Shrubshole, the author of Who Owns England tweeted his dismay of the government’s intention to “criminalise” trespassers.
Last year, the UK government conducted a review spearheaded by Lord Agnew. The review has since been “wound up” but the results of the review have not been released.
The public has a right to know the findings of the review. A lack of transparency, or any sighting of the review begs the question of whether a review was ever conducted? Or was it all a ruse?
The Right To Roam in Scotland and Wales
Scotland introduced the Right to Roam legislation in 2003. In that time, residents in the most northerly parts of the British Isles have enjoyed the right to reconnect with nature.
Moreover, physicians in Scotland were also the first to introduce ‘green prescriptions’ because they recognised the positive outcomes nature has on mental health.
England meanwhile is resisting opening up great swathes of land. Not only that but the existing legislation creates further problems. Some public land can only be reached by passing over private land, but trespasses on private land are warned they will be prosecuted.
This is a problem that the proposed Right to Roam bill sought to prevent and repair. The legislation would also open up more woods and greenbelts that are currently off-limits, but would contribute to improved mental health outcomes if they were accessible.
The righttoraom.org has highlighted another problem. 92% of the privately owned land is not been taken care of properly. Their website reads:
“Our wildlife has being decimated, the countryside has been emptied of the birds and bees and wildflowers that it once brimmed with. Our rivers are clogged with plastic and poisoned with pesticide and sewage… We have forgotten what we have lost: how can we be expected to care about the environment when for so long we have been disconnected from it? As scientist Robert Michael Pyle wrote: “People who care conserve; people who don’t know don’t care…We need a personal connection with nature, forged from early years and maintained as part of our daily lives, in order to care; we need to reconnect with our land.”righttoroam.org
Benefits of Right-to-Roam Legislation
“Right to Roam” legislation, grants the public the right to access and enjoy outdoor areas for recreational and leisure purposes. In the UK, it is believed that Right to Roam legislation will encourage people to get outdoors, engage in physical activities like walking, hiking, and biking, and lead healthier lifestyles.
This could have a positive impact on mental health. It is clearly shown that spending time in nature is an enabler for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. It allows people to connect with nature and experience the therapeutic benefits of the outdoors.
Outdoor access allows for experiential learning about ecosystems, wildlife, and geology. It provides opportunities for nature education and fosters a sense of curiosity and discovery.
Furthermore, encouraging outdoor activities fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of the environment. People are more likely to become environmental stewards and support conservation efforts when they have a connection to the land.
As a result of more exercise and spending time in nature, residents in England have a better opportunity to improve their mental and physical health. And that would ease the burden put on the NHS and its staff.
An editorial in The Guardian newspaper, one of the most respected mainstream rags in the UK, commented, “The result would be a straightforward increase in human wellbeing.
The question has to be asked, therefore, why decision-makers in government are not doing their utmost to improve the physical and mental health of the nation.
Moreover, why are elected politicians not doing their duty to serve the people who vote them into office? Do we live in a democracy or an aristocracy?