Children’s Urgent Call: More Time in Nature Essential

By arayerevanian 2nd April 2024

This article has been written in collaboration with our partner, the National Trust.

A survey conducted by National Trust and First News demands the Government honour its 15-minute commitment to get to a green space.

• More than three-quarters of children surveyed want to spend more time in nature.
• Four in five parents agree the Government should ensure children are no more than a 15-minute walk from green space.
• Parents say the biggest barrier to accessing green space is the distance and the cost of reaching it.
• 76% of children want more time outdoors and 80% of parents call on the government to stick to the 15-minute green space pledge.
• National Trust and First News call for 15-minute green access to become law.
• Children’s wildlife photography competition called “Nature Around Me” launched to help engage young people with nature.

Children want more time in nature and parents are calling on the government to achieve its goal of providing access to green space within a 15-minute walk, a new survey by First News and the National Trust shows.[1]

Just over three-quarters (76%) of children surveyed say they want to spend more time in nature, but nearly two-thirds (63%) of parents only take them once a week or less – citing accessibility as the main barrier.

The survey results come as the National Trust renews its call to make it law to be 15 minutes away from nature – a plea backed by 80% of parents.

And today, First News and the National Trust are calling on the government to enshrine in law their ambition to ensure everyone has access to green or blue space within a 15-minute walk.

They are also launching a nature photography competition “Nature Around Me” [2] to encourage young people to notice and engage with everyday nature around them – no matter where they live.

National Trust Director General Hilary McGrady said: “The benefits of ensuring access to nature is plain to see, but there is unequal access to it. We’d like to see the largest improvement in access to urban green space since the Victorian era.

“We know from our own work, as well as the polling around this issue there is huge public appetite to address these issues – it is a real vote winner.

“The impact that being in nature has on young people is profound and we need policymakers to stand up and develop a long-term plan to ensure everyone has access to green space. Research shows that if children and young people can engage with nature early in life, they grow up to care about the natural world and are more likely to take action to protect it.”

First News editor Nicky Cox MBE said: “The best interests of children should be one of the most important considerations when governments are making laws. Local green spaces matter for everyone as they provide vital benefits such as promoting physical and mental health, fostering community connections and supporting biodiversity around us. Connecting children with nature is not just about exploring the outdoors, it’s about nurturing their curiosity, resilience and sense of wonder, laying the foundation for a more sustainable and empathetic future.”

The survey was commissioned by First News and the National Trust to show the disparity in access to green space as well as the public demand for access.

It shows that nearly a third (31%) of parents surveyed from lower-income households [3] cite the main barrier to accessing nature as cost.

It also reveals that more than half (56%) of children want better access to nature and green space.

Research has shown that access to green space benefits children in a variety of ways including better lung health, stronger bone density, as well as mental and physical wellbeing.

And yet government data shows that 38% of the country lives more than a 15-minute walk from a green or blue space. [4]

As part of a raft of commitments to level up access to nature, Prime Minister Rish Sunak pledged in January 2023 that everyone will live no more than 15 minutes from green space.

Speaking at the time, then Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “I am particularly pleased by our pledge in this plan to bring access to a green or blue space within 15 minutes’ walk of everyone’s homes – whether that be through parks, canals, rivers, countryside or coast.”

Government figures have since shown this commitment is not being met and, with the pledge not legally binding it is feared this will never be the case.

Previous polling has shown that 82% of voters say that conserving the environment and natural habitats is important to them, and two-thirds believe their quality of life would be improved by better access to green spaces.

Recent polling states that climate and environment policies are important and will influence how they vote in the next election. [5]

Studies have shown that access to green space and nature has countless proven benefits for development as well as physical and mental well-being.

References:

[1] The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 1,000 children aged 7 – 14 years PLUS 1,000 parents of those children in the UK (22+). The data was collected between 09.02.24 – 13.02.24 Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct and ESOMAR principles. Censuswide is also a member of the British Polling Council

[2] To enter or for more information see here: https://www.firstnews.co.uk/national-trust/?utm_source=nattrust&utm_campaign=nattrustphotocomp

[3] Lower-income households are defined as those with a household income of £15,000 or less.

[4] Taken from 2.2 of the following written evidence: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/119269/pdf/

[5] Polling undertaken by Survation on behalf of Greenpeace: How will climate influence the next election? New poll shows what the public really think. | Greenpeace UK

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