The next National Sport and Recreation Strategy must include the countryside

The Countryside Alliance has submitted evidence to the House of Lords Committee on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation.

The Committee requested evidence on how to remove barriers to participation in sport and recreation and facilitate more active lifestyles.

The Committee will look at a wide range of issues including:

  • how we can increase physical activity, including among young people
  • how we can increase participation in sport among underrepresented groups including women and girls, disabled people, people from ethnic minority communities and low income groups, and
  • whether current funding structures are effective in getting money to where it has most impact.

The Countryside Alliance welcomes the House of Lords inquiry into a National Plan for Sport and Recreation. We are fully supportive of the Government’s aims of increasing sport and recreation, not simply in terms of traditional sports like football or cricket but as part of a wider agenda to get people outdoors and active. The health benefits, both physical and mental, associated with outdoor activity are generally recognised and understood.

Any national plan should recognise the opportunities for outdoor recreation and ‘getting active’ associated with traditional pursuits in the countryside, such as riding, fishing/angling and shooting. Whether going for a ride, following a trail hunt, shooting, or sitting by a stream or canal these all make a massive contribution to recreation in the UK. Moreover, riding and shooting sports offer some unique opportunities for those with disabilities, while fishing has been shown to assist with children who find traditional learning in the classroom challenging, and fly fishing has been shown to be good therapy for women recovering from breast cancer.

A National Sport and Recreation Strategy must be integrated with the National Angling Strategy and take account of the importance of equestrian and shooting activity across the UK. It is, therefore, essential that the Government must consider the impact of its policies on sport and recreation, whether this is the impact of business rates on equestrian businesses, VAT on the hospitality sector, the proper administration of wildlife licensing, or the way in which public goods are rewarded as part of the replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy. For example, the new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMs) must fully recognise the public benefit from greater access and the provision of recreational facilities.

For a UK-wide strategy to work, it will need to be developed with the devolved administrations, who have devolved responsibilities for payments and environmental and land management policies which need to support and encourage outdoor recreation, and increase public understanding and education. Perhaps uniquely in the area of sport and recreation, those engaged in activities such as game shooting and angling make a positive contribution to the environment and land management. They are also key to delivering the Government’s environmental objectives and nature recovery plans.

At present, those managing the environment are facing a rising tide of restrictions, increased conditions in licences and the steady advance of an animal rights agenda that sees wildlife management and those engaged in rural pursuits as a problem, rather than as a key part of delivering environmental solutions.

In making this submission the Alliance has sought information from the British Horse Society, Pony Club and the Angling Trust. Their responses have been included below. The British Horse Society responded in detail on the basis of the Committee’s original questions in its Call for Evidence and this response has been provided in full.

Our submission can be read here.

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