Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin (Con, St Nicolas) raised the issue during a meeting of the joint strategic committee (JSC) last night (September 7).
He said: “I just wanted to flag up something that amazed me really, and that is 13 per cent of the population of Adur and Worthing have never been to the beach.
“I saw that [statistic] and it blew me away.”
Mr Parkin was referring to a health and wellbeing report to the committee which said that 38 per cent of Adur and Worthing’s population ‘never visit the beach’ or visit ‘less than once a month’ with 13 per cent saying they had ‘never been to the beach’.
This also struck a chord with Worthing Borough Council leader Dan Humphreys (Con, Offington) who expressed astonishment at the figure.
He said: “That in and of itself is astonishing; just how many children living in parts of Worthing – and I don’t mean one and two year olds, I mean right through the primary school ages – have never seen the sea.
“If they’re missing out on that, goodness knows what else they’re missing out on.”
Members of the JSC were discussing a new health and wellbeing strategy for the councils which will last until 2024.
‘Healthy AW’ will replace the previous strategy which had been in place since 2018.
Council officers said the strategy will be ‘very much focused’ around Covid issues and would need to act as a ‘golden thread’ integrating health and wellbeing into ‘all that the councils do’.
The new strategy will have ‘three key principles’ which are: improving health and wellbeing for all residents and especially those with the poorest health; creating environments that promote health and wellbeing; and promoting community resilience.
Issues such as the new trend of working from home, open spaces and health inequalities are highlighted in the strategy.
Although West Sussex County Council has overall responsibility for overseeing health and social care across the county, officers said that the role of district and borough councils is ‘fundamental’ for driving good health in the community.
The new strategy highlights that the impact of the pandemic will be ‘long-term’ and states that it also highlighted social and health inequalities.
It reads: “Whilst we are still understanding the full effects of the pandemic, we are clear that some people in our community have experienced a far greater negative impact than others.
“The health inequalities in our community have been clearly demonstrated.
“At the same time, it has been a period that has really shown the value and importance of communities, with neighbours helping neighbours and groups forming hubs and other community facilities making a real difference to people’s lives.”