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In whose hands is Rye’s future?

February 5, 2009

column-picture2I hope that I am wrong, but I may have stumbled upon a worrying trend in Rye.

I have attended a couple of public meetings over the last two weeks – first the annual meeting of the Rye Partnership, and then on Saturday the Local Action Team meeting at the Community Centre.

At both meetings, in which the current state and future improvement of Rye was up for discussion, I could well have been the youngest person there. And I’m knocking on 33.

More concerning than the fact that there weren’t any younger people at the meetings (there probably should be more alluring things for young people to do, particularly on a Saturday afternoon) is that it was evident that the systems of decision-making for the two areas of community life being addressed – regeneration and community safety – do not have built into them ways of tapping what young people think about, and want for, their area.

I am not saying that it is easy to engage young people in community decision-making. It isn’t. But the responses to questions I have asked at both meetings have given an indication that, as yet, this issue is not sufficiently high up the agenda of our key strategic partnerships.

There are practical reasons why it would have been useful to have young people’s input to these discussions. In respect of regeneration, because it may well be younger workers who will have the IT know-how to help an old, historic town like Rye create and embrace new opportunities – particularly in tourism and the green industries.

And in terms of community safety, because statistically, younger people are more likely to be victims of crime than they are its perpetrators.

I have called on both organisations concerned to make a more determined effort to reach out to our younger people, and to help them to contribute to the future of their town.

In community development terms it makes perfect sense to ensure that younger people feel that they have some ownership of what is going on.

It will make it Rye a yet more interesting, vibrant and safe place to live.

This has to be to the benefit of the whole community. And, specifically in the interest of the 90% of the 200 people who recently returned the Local Action Team’s crime survey, and who were all over the age of 44.

I am pleased to hear from Town Clerk Richard Farhall that there will be a specific attempt to engage young people and get their views for the Rye part of the Rother Local Development Framework.

So maybe I am wrong to suspect a trend.

But I will keep on asking the questions until it’s a certainty.


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