Where are the new public spaces? We challenge government pledge 

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We deal with almost 1000 cases a year assisting communities, groups and individuals in protecting their local spaces and paths in all parts of England and Wales. Can you help us by joining as a member?

The 31 January was the first anniversary of the government’s pledge, in its Environmental Improvement Plan, that (within five years) ‘the public will benefit from a new commitment to access green space or water within a 15-minute walk from their home, such as woodlands, wetlands, parks and rivers’.  A year on, we question what is happening. 

New village green at Scorton in North Yorkshire, registered voluntarily by Scorton Parish Council in 2020. Photo: Scorton Parish Council

When this promise was published, the society welcomed the intention but expressed concern about the lack of detail, timetable, and funding.  There is no public indication of progress in the last year. 

Says Nicola Hodgson, one of our case officers: ‘This is a wonderful ambition, but it needs to be matched with action.  There should be a legally-binding target to guarantee results. 

‘Safe, good-quality open spaces close to home have never been more important.  The new and existing spaces within 15 minutes’ walk must have permanent public access, and be connected by paths.  We therefore advocate: 

  • voluntary dedication of open spaces as town or village greens(2), giving permanent access and protection from development; 
  • a mandate on developers to provide registered town and village greens as part of a development over a certain size or density; 
  • a right of access on and alongside water bodies; 
  • creation of permanent public paths to connect people to their local green spaces, and to ensure they can reach them safely. 

‘We know that the outdoors is vital for our physical and mental health and well-being, and that money spent on providing good-quality spaces and paths is an excellent investment. 

‘We urge government to step up its efforts to deliver its promise to the public,’ says Nicola. 

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