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Three quarters of children want more time in nature, research suggests

More than three quarters of children want to spend more time in nature, research suggests.

The National Trust and First News, a newspaper for children, asked 1,000 youngsters aged seven to 14, as well as more than 1,000 parents of those children, about access to the outdoors.

The poll, which was conducted by Censuswide in February, found that 76% of children wanted more time in nature and more than half (56%) wanted better access to nature.

It also found that four in five parents (80%) agree that the Government should ensure children are no more than a 15-minute walk from green space.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans in January 2023 for everyone to live within 15 minutes’ walk of green space or water as part of wider plans to restore nature.

The Government’s environmental improvement plan also highlighted that 38% of people are more than a quarter of an hour’s walk from green and blue spaces.

But in late 2023, the Guardian newspaper reported that the Government had shelved plans to meet the pledge and rejected the idea of making it legally binding.

According to the National Trust poll, nearly two-thirds of parents (63%) only take their children to green space once a week or less.

It also suggested that nearly a third (31%) of parents surveyed from lower income households cite the main barrier to accessing nature as cost.

The National Trust and First News are calling on the Government to push forward with the ambition, enshrining the target in law.

It comes as they launch a wildlife photography competition to encourage young people to engage with the nature around them no matter where they live.

Hilary McGrady, National Trust director general, 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.

“The impact that being in nature has on young people is profound and we need policy makers to stand up and develop a long-term plan to ensure everyone has access to green space.

Nicky Cox, First News editor, said: “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.”

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

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are creating more opportunities for people to access nature and spend time outdoors in our countryside – it’s why we have set out our ambition for every household to be within a 15-minute walk of a green space or water.

“This is especially important for children, and so we have put in £2.5 million specifically to help young people to spend time in nature.

“Alongside this, we have announced plans for a new national park, made £7 million available for green community spaces and opened 1,075 miles of the King Charles III Coast Path.”