Pilot scheme aims to give all children access to Devon's beaches

  Posted: 03.05.21 at 12:14 by Philippa Davies

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Many children in Devon have never been to the seaside, even though they live in a county with some of England's best beaches.

But that could soon change, after Devon County Council voted to explore plans to see how to help youngsters get to the county's coast and moorlands.

Cllr Frank Biederman, leader of the Independent group, said that given pensioners can access beaches with their free bus pass, he believed this should also be available to young people - particularly since the last year has shown how important it is to spend time in the natural environment.

He said: “Many children in Devon have never been to the beach, because of financial limitations on families, they can often find it beyond their means.

“Visiting a beach can have fantastic health benefits for young people and their family, particularly their mental health, as well as connecting them with our beautiful environment.

"If communities are better connected to our natural environment, they will be more inclined to preserve it for future generations.

“Pensioners can access the beaches with their free bus pass, we believe this should also be available to our young people.

“We want children to be connected to the natural environment but in some cases half the children in a class have never been to the beach or the moors, or do those things we go and enjoy that make us feel better about life. This should be something we need to find innovative ways to make it happen.”

Cllr Yvonne Atkinson added: “We need a strategic approach to this sad state of affairs, and it is such an important issue and the last year has shown just how important green and blue nature is.”

Cllr Biederman’s initial motion had called for the council to commit to work with travel partners to provide vouchers to families on low incomes for free travel to the beach at weekends and/or during school holiday periods.

But the amendment put forward by the cabinet instead asked that Public Health Devon explore with the Devon Local Nature Partnership and other partners to conduct a pilot study examining possible options to increase engagement with green and blue spaces in children, young people, and families on low income.

They will also ask Public Health Devon to work with the Devon LNP, Devon Community Partners, and Active Devon to review and if necessary develop resources to promote local opportunities for walks or activities in green/blue space for to a wide variety of users, and to increase communications using a social marketing approach that are targeted and relatable to improve confidence and allay anxieties about accessing the natural environment, and facilitate behaviour change.

Councillors at last Thursday’s full council meeting voted by 50 votes to 0, with one abstention, in favour of the pilot study to see how to increase access to beaches and the moors for those who have never been and don’t have the resources to travel to them.

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