I am delighted to say that the Conservative Party is committed to protecting our natural environment, keeping development sustainable and giving everyone the opportunity to access and enjoy the great British outdoors.
I'm proud that this Government published the first Natural Environment White Paper for 20 years and established a proper strategy, Biodiversity 2020. £7.5 million has been provided to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas, providing space for wildlife to thrive; 150,000 acres of priority habitats are being created, and over 11 million trees will have been planted during this Parliament. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that hasn't been seen since the fourteenth century.
Being outside in nature benefits people physically and mentally, so it is important too to protect access to the countryside. Our network of public rights of way plays an important role, so the Government is simplifying the process of recording them to ensure no historic rights of way are lost. Work is also ongoing with Natural England to establish the England Coast Path.
The Government's vision for sustainable development, launched in February 2011, made clear that it must be 'central to the way we make policy, run our buildings and purchase goods and services'. For the first time all departmental business plans include actions that contribute to sustainable development, and tools and capabilities in this area are being embedded right across the Government.
I believe the progress the Government has made shows our commitment to protecting and promoting our natural environment for the present and for the future.