Call for free bus passes
Despite being home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, many children in Devon have never been to the seaside.
But that could soon be set to change after Devon County Council voted to back exploring plans to see how to help youngsters access the natural environment that the county has to offer.
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 as well.
He said: “Many children in Devon have never been to the beach or because of financial limitations on families 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.
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 (LNP) and other partners to examine options to increase engagement with green and blue spaces for children, young people, and families on low income.
They will also ask Public Health Devon work with the Devon LNP, Devon Community Partners, and Active Devon to review and promote local opportunities for walks or activities, and to increase communications.
Councillors at 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.