Yesterdays Government Spending Review could see a reduction of the usability of the countryside for outdoor enthusiasts. The accessibility of the countries outdoor spaces that we have grown to appreciate could be a thing of the past.
The cutbacks that Chancellor George Osborne (left, courtesy of the Telegraph) has proposed has meant that DEFRA, the Government body that oversees some of the relevant countryside authorities, such as Natural England, will have to burden a 34% cut in it’s capital budgets. As Natural England (formerly English Nature) are responsible for the safeguarding of much of our natural environment, this could have large scale effects on the maintenance of access routes, infrastructure, and public access areas.
The problem may not be confined just to the public areas however, Natural England are in charge of providing land owners with Agri-Environment grants, many of which are designed to make rural land owners land, not just more environmentally diverse, but also more accessible to the public.
With such large scale budget cuts to DEFRA, will organisations like Natural England be able to sustain the level of countryside stewardship that we currently have.
When you combine this with the 5% budget cut that the National Parks Authorities have already had to stomach, and the continued lack of funding for the Mountain Rescue organisation, a walk in the Lake District could soon be a far harder task.
A representative from the Ramblers Association commented, “Cuts to Defra and local authority budgets will mean that well-loved walking routes and popular tourist destinations will quickly fall into disrepair and disuse – blocking future generations from discovering and enjoying the British countryside”.
With over £7 billion being spent on visits to the countryside last year, a decrease in accessibility could also have far reaching affects on the rural economy where trade can already be highly seasonal.
What do you think? Is this the biggest crisis to hit the countryside since Foot and Mouth? Do you relish the idea that less people will access the countryside and therefore it might be a bit more secluded? or is everyone just making a big fuss about nothing?
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