LABOUR has pledged to plant three new national forests, stop use of bee-harming pesticides and help local groups buy land to create green space near them.

The promises are among a raft of proposals in Labour’s new “countryside protection plan” which the party says will protect nature, increase access to landscapes and end declines in British wildlife.

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed claimed “Labour are the conservers, not the Conservatives” as he pledged the next Labour government would protect and restore nature and safeguard the countryside for future generations.

It comes after environmental and conservation groups called for ambitious action from the next government to meet legal targets and international commitments to halt declines in wildlife and protect 30% of land and sea for nature.

Labour’s proposals, which have received a broadly positive response from conservation organisations, include increasing access to nature, creating nine new national river walks across England’s regions and planting three new national forests.

Labour said its planned new towns and house building will include access to parks and green spaces on people’s doorsteps, while communities will be able to create new green areas with a community right to buy that allows them to buy and restore derelict land and green spaces.

The party also pledges to accelerate tree planting and woodland creation, which is falling far behind targets to boost tree cover as part of measures to curb climate change, with a new tree planting taskforce, and grow nature rich habitats such as wetlands and peat bogs to store carbon and support wildlife.

Protected areas such as national parks will helped to become “wilder and greener”, the party said.

Mr Reed said Britain was a land of “remarkable natural beauty”, adding that: “Our children and grandchildren deserve to be astounded by the magnificence of our landscapes and coastlines and enjoy our iconic wildlife, just as we can.”

But he said: “After 14 years of Tory chaos, nature is under threat.”

Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust said: “Labour’s proposals give some encouraging indications that they recognise the scale of the challenge facing nature and the countryside."