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Saturday June 23 2018

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In Full . . .

The voice of youth

Posted on March 29 2018 at 12:36:22

Sam

Barnt Green’s new parish councillor, 18-year-old Sam Harris, shares his vision for the village.

Councils need young people, to help other young people engage with what’s going on in their area,” says Sam, who was co-opted last month after applying to fill a vacancy.

Currently preparing for his A-levels in Politics, Geography and World Development at Worcester Sixth Form College, he already has an unconditional offer for Nottingham Trent University to read Politics and International Relations, starting this October – but decided to join the council anyway:

“I hope to do as much as I can while I can. . . and hopefully pass the baton to another young person when I leave.”

Sam regularly organises talks and events at his sixth form to get people engaged in politics, and says an important part of his council role will be finding out what issues are most important to young villagers – not just teens, but young families too.

“In Barnt Green we have an ageing population, so there’s a real opportunity for more youngsters to get involved in the village.”

Sam has lived in Barnt Green all his life, attending St Andrew’s First School before moving on to St John’s Middle and South Bromsgrove High.

As a resident, he realises that traffic and parking are one of the village’s biggest problems: “Even in the past 18 years I’ve seen a huge increase in traffic. Something has to change, and we should join with other parish councils to build momentum.

“When councillors discuss offering more parking spaces, it’s like we are saying, ’you bring your car and we will make space for you!’

“We should be encouraging people not to use their cars, especially as air pollution is so bad around Bromsgrove.”

Another big issue on the agenda is, of course, the threat of huge housing developments on Green Belt land. “The Green Belt is our environment and we need to protect it to pass on to our kids. However, we do need some housing for young people.

“Much of the “affordable” housing is actually not affordable for people like me; the price depends on average house prices. Barnt Green is a great area but there’s lots of poverty just down the road.”

Sam is also concerned about a lack of amenities for young people, leading to problems such as graffiti.

“It’s great that we are getting a new caretaker, but everyone needs to take responsibility rather than pay for someone to clean up after us. It may seem a pain, but this is your home!”

He points out that youngsters may respond better to a younger councillor talking about things like keeping the village tidy – and is keen to organise a big litter pick event.

“If we work together on things like this, we will become closer-knit and get to know our neighbours more.”

He would also like to see more community events in general.

“The high street is used by everyone, but there’s not much other connectivity – we have such an individual way of living.

“You see people walk past each other and not say hello. People love the idea of community but we all need to put the effort in.”

Although he thinks the council should be more proactive in seeking opinions, he also recognises that if residents want something done, they need bring it to the council’s attention.

“We can only act if we know about it. It would be great if people can get to know the councillors and chat to them on the street.”

Sam is pleased that the parish council is getting on board with social media, as this will also help to engage younger people.

”We need to make them feel confident that the council can and will act on their behalf to get things done.”

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