Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the British Mountaineering Council


The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is the representative body for climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers in England and Wales. With over 70,000 members who participate in a range of activities from hill and coastal walking to climbing and bouldering, the need to respect the natural environment is never more apparent than to those who visit, explore and enjoy the landscape in which they undertake their activities.

The BMC interest in the publication of The Natural Choice is focussed around chapter 4, Reconnecting People and Nature. The BMC gives advice to our broad membership on how best to engage and respect the natural environment whilst enjoying its unique qualities. As a land owner and manager with responsibility for over 90 acres of recreational space, our expertise in environmentally sensitive land management practices for the benefits of both recreation and conservation is increasingly called upon.

The BMC welcome the commitment to restoring our natural environment, and the central place given to people in the White Paper. However, we believe it fails to fully recognise the important role that access and recreation play in facilitating the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the natural environment; in particular wider access provision through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) and through the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA).

The BMC supports:

1.1The recognition of the important health benefits access to the natural environment can bring;

1.2The commitment to embed the value of the natural environment through education and outdoor learning; and

1.3Government plans to improve other aspects of local environment quality (eg litter and light pollution).

The BMC believe the following could be improved:

2.1Chapter 4, Connecting By Improving Access to the Countryside. This section is entirely focussed on improving and extending cycling and walking routes, and presents only a partial, narrow view of how to connect society with nature. It is important for Government to recognise that access to our moorlands, mountains, our wild spaces, our cliffs and rock faces, away from linear routes, is a major part of the recreational experience for many. Open air recreation in its broadest sense needs to be a more prominent theme in this chapter.

Government should rectify the following omissions in Chapter 4:

3.1The Government has inherited a fine legacy in relation to improved access to our countryside for recreation on foot in particular through CROW and the MCAA. The Paper fails to celebrate the public’s ability to enjoy and access nature through this legislation and offers no recognition or support for current open access provision.

3.2The paper ignores the future of coastal access in England; an indication of the lack of commitment and understanding of the value of public access to the coast.

Action for Government:

Commit to a timetable for opening stretches of the English coastal path each year.

Support current access provision and support existing bodies in the delivery of public access and wider recreational opportunities.

Recognise the importance of outdoor recreation in any new landscape designations.

Protect long-term access to recreational land now owned by public bodies.

Continue to promote the benefits of, and opportunities for all types of quiet, open air recreation.

21 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012