Myself and Cllr Roger Giles spent an hour talking with the year seven Citizenship students, this morning – a class run by Jo Elliott, who has also worked hard to help bring Ottery’s skatepark into being.

Part of the Citizenship work includes politics and exploring how things can be changed, by engaging with the political process.

I was asked how I thought that councillors could engage more with young people.  I said that this was something more councillors needed to do, that there weren’t enough young people influencing issues and councillors needed to do more face-to-face and online communications to help reach younger people.

I said that when I was at school I thought that politics was really boring yet I was handing out leaflets on campaigns against animal cruelty and organising petitions, without realising that these campaigns were directly hooked into politics – you can’t change something without getting involved with the political process. 

Roger told the class about Communities Before Developers and the effect it had on East Devon District Council’s Local Development Framework process.  A photo of our march on the Knowle during November 2010 appeared on the screen!

This led to class debate on what they would like to change in Ottery.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for projects which involved young people and adults to get active and outdoors. 

There was excitement about the prospect (very long-awaited) of a cycleway from Feniton to Ottery to Tipton to Sidmouth, along the old railway line that closed in the 1970s.  This is an initiative that Devon County Council has in its plan, however, the costs of converting the land are considerable.

Widespread and proactive community support for the project, may help oil the wheels – at least for part of the scheme to be funded.

Students displayed an excellent understanding of the implications of such a project and thought that a cycleway would be beneficial for people’s health, tourism and helping youngsters learn to ride bikes.

Myself and Roger are keen to be involved and are full of enthuasiasm about a new campaign!

Photograph:  Myself, Roger Giles and PE teacher, Mr Wood, with some of the year seven Kings School students who are keen to kickstart a campaign.