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Town Council promises a Youth shelter

YOUNGSTERS in Chipping Norton were handed a special Christmas delivery this week by the town council - they are to have their own youth shelter for get-togethers.  Shelters - a variety of designs are available including petal shapes and ones in the shape of the letter S - cost around 5,000. They are built on the lines of bus shelters but are more robust. As well as the shelter, the council is investigating the possibility of throwing open the Lower Town Hall for youth activities a couple of nights a week. The long-term aim is to build a dedicated youth centre for the town to replace the current facility which is part of Chipping Norton School."There is no doubt we need a proper, stand alone youth centre for the town," said Cllr Don Davidson, also chairman of the present youth centre management committee. "The current youth centre is part of the school, which is under pressure for space, and there is also the problem that some of the more disaffected youth in the town may be put off by the idea of going back to school in their leisure time."



"If you had a Youth Shelter, where would you want it" asked  Don Davidson who was chairing the Youth meeting in the Town Hall last night rather in the manner of  Robert Kilroy Silk - informally moving round the hall selecting questioners. "Down Back Alley" shouted all the thirty or so kids present in unison. "Down Back Alley". You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Town Centre dwellers as they realised the nightmare possibility of a youth shelter in the Market Square might be evaporating. The wonderful Val Newey (the lady who tried to have chippingnorton.net banned) looked puzzled. Her hand shot up. Adults were not supposed to be asking questions but she persisted. "Where is Back Alley" Val enquired. She seemed concerned that this might be the kid's nickname for Diston's Lane. "You should get out more" one of the kids shouted. Which seemed fair enough advice. The exchange was typical of  parts of the meeting. A dialogue of the deaf between some very lively young people and well-meaning grown-ups who knew very little about their lives and attitudes. One lady who lived behind the Co-Op and understood exactly why the Co-Op had installed the Mosquito said she was fed up with kids peeing on her steps. She didn't think any public money should be spent on them. They could have the Town Hall. There were plenty of people with specific skills in the town who would volunteer as helpers. And anyway what exactly was it that the kids wanted They didn't seem to be able to make up their minds. She kept asking this over and over and the kids kept telling her over and over very clearly what they wanted. But what she and a lot of others didn't quite seem to grasp was that different groups of kids have different ideas. The worthies of the town were asking a simple question and expected a simple answer. Well there isn't one. That is now quite clear. One very dogged young man repeatedly insisted that a Skate Park was his answer (Full marks for determination). The Off the Streets Group turned up in force led by a very persuasive Father and Son team - Tym and Darryl -  to argue for a well-honed concept they have worked up. A multi-use building and an all-weather enclosed playing area at Greystones next to the football pitch for different sports and many other pastimes and activities - like dancing, art, theatre, computers, sound recording studio etc. Funded by a Lottery Grant, Sport England, the County Council and Section 106 agreements. This idea got wide support. The town deserved a proper, dedicated Youth Centre. There was some anxiety about the distance of Greystones from the town centre but nobody came up with any better suggestion for a location. However this was going to be years away. What could be done in the meantime The Town Hall Steps Group just wanted a safe space where they could "chill out" and meet their mates. Nothing over-organised. Perhaps soft drinks. Perhaps a pool table. Perhaps some music. They absolutely did not want the Town Hall. They wanted a place of their own.  The Off the Streets Group said a shelter would be a waste of money. Different groups would fight over it. It would get vandalised. People in the town would then turn round and say "There you are, we provided a shelter and see what the kids have done to it". Much better spend the money on something that would last. They thought we should make much more use of the present Youth Centre at the school which should be funded for more nights a week. We needed more volunteer workers. The school would have to be told that they couldn't use the Youth Centre for school activities as much as they seemed determined to do. They should be allowed to use the all-weather games area at the Leisure centre for nothing. At the moment the Youth Centre couldn't afford to hire it for very long. Let's get commercial sponsorship somebody suggested! The Town Hall Steps Group eventually agreed that they would use the Youth Centre if it was open more often and they didn't think a shelter was such a good idea after all. Rebecca and her friends wanted a facility in the centre of town. Why - she asked - was it not possible to make some use of Chestnuts - the old nurses home owned by the County - which had been standing empty for years That would provide lots of suitable space. With all the single-mindedness of youth one young man suggested we should take over the Solar building instead of allowing them to turn it into flats. A fenced-in, hard surface games area down at the Rec emerged as a strong short-term favourite - provided it was well-lit. Now that is something that could be made to happen fast! Let's go for it. "No decisions tonight" warned the Chairman. "Yasin and his Recreation Committee will be sorting priorities and moving things forward". This was a really good meeting. Due entirely to the outstandingly skilful chairmanship of Don Davidson. Don knew most of the young people's names for a start. He made sure that they all had their say and was very adept at shutting up the grown-ups. Even the usually irrepressible Councillor Biles was forced into listening mode. There must have been 60-70 there. Most people that mattered managed to make it. Lots of councillors. It was good to see the Vicar, Gerald Forse from Hailcorns, Simon Towers from the Safety Partnership, Matt from the Youth Centre,  and Catherine Chater from the Town Partnership. (Presumably she had come along to learn about how democracy works in Chippy). Pity the Headmaster couldn't be bothered. I came away thinking that we have a very spirited and lively group of young people in this town, who have some great ideas and who make their case very convincingly and who deserve a much better deal from us taxpayers than they have had so far. They mustn't be let down again.

Councillor Keith Greenwell writes: There were more than 60 people, including the press, in the Town Hall for the meeting. It was excellently chaired and facilitated by Councillor Don Davidson and a wide range of views was expressed by a cross section of residents of Chipping Norton. Town, District and County Councillors attended and listened intently to the views expressed. These ranged from "Why wasn't the Youth Centre open more than I night a week" to we want a new comprehensive Youth Centre that caters for all groups and interests of both the youth of today and the flexibility to meet the demands of future young people.The constant theme seemed to be that there is a present pressing demand for somewhere that is 'youth territory' where they can 'chill out' have a coffee, maybe play pool or similar.  We now have to plan and execute our way forward to try and deliver, it won't be easy and as Councillor Davidson repeatedly pointed out it won't be quick either but if we work together under the Leadership of Yasin, Chairman of the Town Council Recreation Committee, we can make progress.

Rebecca Herrin writes The meeting comprised of a good turn out of at least 60 people 1/3 of these participants were local teenagers (including myself.) The meeting comprised of a debate where the Youth Centre/Shelter could possibly be and what type of facilities they would want to see there. There were mentions about funding which could be obtained by either grants or private funding from business from section 106 from proposed developers in the town. (The funding was mentioned by many in the meeting.) There was a hearty discussion which came from Tym Soper about a proposal for Greystones and how indoor and outdoor activities could be combined to suit all youth. However this was a long term solution and this was made apparent. For a short term solution Youth Shelters (which are basically bus shelters) could be a possibility and could be erected in places for the youth such as the Back Alley etc. Participants then mentioned about the existing Youth Centre and how this could be used more until a long term solution was found. (It was also mentioned about the Headmaster of Chipping Norton Comprehensive apparently wanting the Youth Centre to move from the school grounds. However Hilary Biles was quick to contradict that this was not true.) The Youth of Chipping Norton now need backing from the Town Council. Town Partnership, County Council and District Council in moving the whole Greystones project forward i.e.  -The reduction in speed limit to 30 mph pass the Greystones junction.  -A safe and decent path way which will accommodate more than one person walking on it.  -A crossing point which is adjacent to Greystones entrance so it is safe to cross. -Adequate Street lighting so it is safe for the youth to walk along there. The junction of Greystones made into a safe and sensible junction with sufficient lighting.

Debbie writes: The view of the young people present tended to be towards the out of town option (with appropriate setting up). This would mean that when they came out of the youth centre, and felt rather "hyper" (exciteable), the noise and laughter would not disturb close neighbours (or the co-op!). A place to call their own, was seen as far more important than being inside the regular town limits. It was acknowledged that no solution, however, is perfect. There will always be young people who won't want to engage with any provision, as this is part of their culture, and "rebellion" - surely this has been present in youth in every generation, in some form or another. There were several views from young people that made me feel sad: they felt let down by adults promising things, and then not doing them; they feel blamed and unwelcome as groups of young people;... lets make sure we do something, make them a valued part of our community! A very valuable meeting, but why did Hilary point blank face off and contradict young people who offered their views They had risked a lot to be there and share their views... we must treat each other with respect!



A TOUCH of the US could come to Chippy in
the form of an outdoor basketball pitch.

The idea was one of the suggestions made at last Tuesday's public meeting to discuss the provision of facilities for young people in the town. Cllr Don Davidson said: "We had a very positive response with around 100 people, youngsters and adults, turning up. "There were several good suggestions made, including the provision of a hard-surfaced, fenced-off area for basketball and football where youngsters could play unsupervised as they do in the States." Other proposals included making more use of facilities around the town, such as public halls, and extending the hours and activities at the current youth centre.

Cllr Davidson said that while a new stand-alone youth centre was needed for Chipping Norton, everyone recognised that this would take at least two to three years and a huge planning and funding operation to bring to fruition.

"Something needs to be provided in the interim to keep youngsters occupied and we've now got good ideas to work with," he said."We also need more adults prepared to come forward and help with projects to engage young people." The recreation committee will formulate a series of suggestions to put to the town council.



An exciting new project linking 20 young people from West Oxfordshire with 20 young people from France has been given the go-ahead.  The project will bring together Chipping Norton School with La Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture, a youth centre, in Breteuil, North Normandy, France.  The 40 young people will work and live together for 3 weeks during the summer holidays. During this time they will be learning and developing skills in performance, music technology and composition, filming and circus. Spending a week in both Breteuil and Chipping Norton they will learn to live and work together, from making meals to exploring the towns. They will also spend time in Brussels and at the Edinburgh Festival for which they will preplan their time via blogs and conferencing over the internet. Their time together will be recorded with a video diary which will also reflect cultural differences seen through both English and French eyes. Upon their return they will make a short film that will document their experience. The English students will then return to France in November for a Film Festival, which will include their film. As part of this project Chipping Norton School will be building two digital arts studios - one for recording music and one for film and photographic editing. Students will also undertake 20 hours of training in film, French language and music. The project, costing just over 65,000 is being funded from the West Oxfordshire Network LEADER+ Programme, Defra, Chipping Norton School and money from European partners.  Ian Nolan, TE:AM Project Manager for Chipping Norton School, who created the project with French partners said, This is a fantastic opportunity for both the students and the School here at Chipping Norton. We will be able to equip two studios with the latest equipment and technology that will be accessible to all students of the School. The project will involve upper school students, who will learn new skills on specialist equipment and then be able to pass this down to students in the lower school through peer teaching  The TE:AM project, (Tour Europe: Arts and Music), took 18 months to develop from its original inception to its final approval by the West Oxfordshire Network Steering Group and the National Committee in France.



The Town Council really got their skates on
following the Jan 30th Youth Meeting in the Town Hall.

On Jan 30th  Councillor Yasin Qadir (Chairman of the Recreation Committee) organised a meeting of youth and people interested in improving youth facilities. Eighty people turned up. It was a very good meeting brilliantly chaired by Councillor Don Davidson. There was a lot of support for pushing ahead with developing plans for a Youth Centre. Everyone recognised this would take a few years. Top of the wish list for an immediate, short-term improvement was the unanimous call for an all-weather multi-use fenced games area on the Rec -  with a shelter alongside. Things moved fast following that meeting.

WODC were in the process of putting together a District bid for a grant from the Big Lottery Fund Childrens Play Programme.  "District councils across England are offered an indicative figure of lottery funding for improving free local childrens play spaces and opportunities in their Council areas. This figure is based on population and levels of deprivation and is a maximum figure for which the District Council can apply. West Oxfordshire District Council is being offered an indicative figure of 200,000.  In order to access the funding, the Council needs to: (1) set out a strategy for play provision (2) submit an application to the fund that sets out a portfolio of projects, worth at least 50,000 each, that clearly meet the priorities identified in the strategy (3) set out partnership funding".

WODC Council officers - led by  Diana Shelton (Head of Leisure and Tourism) - met with Vanessa Oliveri (the Town Clerk) and members of the Recreation Committee (Yasin, Eve Coles and Jo Graves) several times to thrash out the details of a 90,000 Chippy project that could form part of the District's bid for Lottery funding.

The people who pushed this project through. Well done you guys!

Town Clerk
Vanessa Oliveri
Ex- Town Councillor
Yasin Qadir
District Councillor
Eve Coles
Town Councillor
Jo Graves

As a result of a lot of hard work (and sincere thanks are due to all involved) WODC Cabinet are being asked to authorise the following project to go forward as part of the District Lottery bid. They will surely agree!

Chipping Norton Recreation Ground
A multi-use games area (MUGA) and a youth shelter on the Towns recreation ground have been particularly identified as a need through consultation with young people. The MUGA would enable young people to gain free access to a games area without needing to pre-book or be part of an organised activity. This would leave the MUGA at Chipping Norton Leisure Centre for sports clubs and organisations who wish to pre-book and run organised activities and fixtures. The maintenance of the MUGA would be the responsibility of Chipping Norton Town Council and would be developed in partnership with them. The work undertaken by OPFA (Oxford Playing Fields association) also identified significant issues with the current open access play areas in Chipping Norton and in particular the play area at the recreation ground. This project would therefore also involve improvements in this play area, with repairs to the safer surfacing as a top priority. The exact refurbishment works will be identified by Council Officers and Chipping Norton Town Councils Recreation Committee including representation by young people
themselves. The construction of the MUGA and youth shelter is estimated to cost 45,000 and the improvements to the play area at the recreation ground are also estimated to cost 45,000, totalling 90,000. Funding for this project would be a combination of 50,000 BLF funding, 20,000 of funding from Chipping Norton Town Council and 20,000 of partnership funding from WODC. (The 20,000 from the Town Council had already been allocated in this year's budget for Playground improvements)

Of course we still have to win the bid. So fingers crossed everybody. But the chances look very good. Yasin retires from the Town Council next month. What a very fitting farewell present this would be for him!


Playground Project waits on lottery bid

CHIPPING Norton's youngsters could soon be jumping for joy if plans for a new look recreation area are approved. It all depends on a 50,000 Lottery grant bid being made by West Oxfordshire District Council, 45,000 for a new multi-use games area and 5,000 for a teen shelter at the New Street ground. The council recognises the town's efforts to cater for youngsters - a recent public meeting gave them the opportunity to put forward their own suggestions for facilities and activities. It has earmarked the cash from a 200,000 bid for Big Lottery help for recreation grounds across West Oxfordshire.

If successful, the council may also find another 20,000 for new safety flooring for the town's children's play area. Chipping Norton Town Council would have to contribute 20,000 as well. Included in the new multi-use area would be markings for football, basketball, skateboarding and cycling. Town councillor and chairman of the youth centre management committee, Don Davidson said: "If we do get the cash, it will be a huge boost for the town's youngsters. Once we know for sure, we can start to plan the facilities. Hopefully, the kids themselves will help to choose things like games and what sort of shelter will be included. The ground will get a new all-weather surface and the area will have low fencing around it. It will give them somewhere to let off steam and they will be able to take on responsibility for it and show a pride in it."

Cllr Davidson said that while a new stand-alone youth centre was needed for Chipping Norton, everyone recognised that this would take at least two to three years and a huge planning and funding operation to bring to fruition. Samantha Simpson of the district council: "Chipping Norton was identified as an area of particular need in a survey by the Oxfordshire Playing Fields Association."


Well here's a thing! The Chairman of the Recreation Committee (Yasin Qadir) who is the Town Council's Youth Supremo reported to the Town Council last night that he had been summoned to a meeting with the Town Partnership Programme Manager. She told him that the Partnership was going to hold a consultation with young people to see what kind of Youth Council they wanted. In the future this Youth Council would be the authoritative voice of the Town's Youth. No adults would be invited to the consultation - no councillors and certainly no Chairman of the Recreation Committee. It was up to young people themselves to decide who this Youth Council would report to. Might be the Partnership. Might be the Town Council. Might be themselves.

A Youth Council is a great idea. It's official government policy that Parish Councils should be encouraged to set them up - indeed there's a 1,000 cash incentive for them to do so. But what on earth has it got to do with the Town Partnership There are very few Town Partnerships established so far in the UK and - as far as we know - none which have tried to take on responsibility for Youth issues. Our own Partnership was set up specifically to try and generate new employment opportunities in the town following the closure of Parker Knoll. They have failed to do that after two years - so in classic quango fashion they are now casting around for other things to do. With a headmaster as Chairman its perhaps not surprising that they have decided to start dabbling in things like Youth Councils - which have got absolutely nothing to do with them. They really should get their heads down and just concentrate on finding funding for their "mythical" Enterprise Centre (which seems to be getting lost in a fog of endless discussion ).

A few town councillors thought that this was all very strange. Surely the Town Council should not be prepared to hand over any of its meagre powers to some unelected body. Indeed surely it was the responsibility of the Mayor to fight tooth and nail to retain the Town Council's influence. If the Town Council was prepared to abdicate  responsibility for formulating a Youth strategy for the town, what on earth did it think it should be involved in But here's another thing  - the Mayor is actually on the Town Partnership. As soon as the debate heated up she should have withdrawn from the discussion. The conflict of interest was glaring.  Far from withdrawing the Mayor stayed to argue for the Town Partnership being uniquely placed to facilitate progress on the question of a Youth Centre.  The Town Council was only a "provider". Another Councillor stunningly re-wrote all the Local Government Acts that ever existed. She maintained that the Town Council was just one of the stakeholders ..... alongside and with no more rights than the Chippy Swifts, Scouts or the Rotary. A Partnership was essential to provide an overview and to co-ordinate action.  This is such patent rubbish that if it comes up again the Town Clerk will have to think about ruling such talk as being out of order - from the point of view of constitutional and statute law..

As it was, the Town Council eventually insisted that the Partnership Youth Spokesman (whoever that is) should be required to act in harness with the Town Council's  own Youth Supremo (Yasin Qadir)  in taking forward any discussion or plans about Youth matters in the town. And do you know what The representative of the Partnership (Councillor Evans who should also have withdrawn from the discussion ages before) said that he would have to go back and consult the Partnership Steering Committee about this proposal.

The kids of this town are already up in arms about wanting some action. They have been fobbed off for years. They want a Youth Centre. You only have to read the Forum to see how strong feelings are.  After doing nothing for so long the Town Council are at last getting some sort of act together. But what the youth are now promised by the Partnership apparently is a meeting in February to discuss what form a Youth Council will take. Presumably followed by a survey and then Elections and setting up of the Council. Then debates and finally some ideas - but by when Councillor Coles was rude enough to hope that things would not follow the usual Partnership timetable. The Partnership had conducted a survey ten months ago at the Freshers Fair asking young people what they wanted. Only in the last few weeks had they found a young volunteer to analyse the hundreds and hundreds of Post-it notes which the survey had generated. Rebecca Herrin spent eighteen hours producing some really interesting data based on 300 respondents. But guess what The Programme Manager told Yasin at their meeting that this information was now out of date so would have to all be researched again. (Probably didn't come up with the right answer more likely!) Its just unbelievable!