HL Deb 19 April 1999 vol 599 cc137-8WA
Lord Northbourne

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the medical evidence about the value for the health of adults of a two-mile walk each day, they will make one the objectives of the Millennium the creation of 2,000 new circular country walks near or adjacent to centres of residential population. [HL1906]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty)

We recognise the valuable contribution that walking can make to improving and sustaining both physical and mental health, and are taking action to encourage it. On circular walks, the British Heart Foundation and the Countryside Agency are working together, within their "Walking—the Way to Health" initiative, to create local schemes to increase the availability of such walks and to encourage otherwise sedentary people to realise the benefits of regular walking. The principal responsibility for developing circular paths, and most other walking routes, lies with local authorities, which are well placed to understand local needs and recreation opportunities. They have powers to create, divert and extinguish paths, by agreement with landowners or by order.

National Lottery funds are available for the creation of new routes. The Millennium Commission has awarded £84.6 million in grant to 18 capital projects which help in some way to encourage walking—through footpath development and restoration, park development, and increasing public access to the countryside. These projects include the Trans-Pennine Trail, the Millennium Coastal Park at Llanelli and the Peterborough Green Wheel. Other Lottery Funds have also made significant contributions to improving access to the countryside. This is an important element too of the "Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities Initiative", one of the three new initiatives recently announced to be funded by the New Opportunities Fund.