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Youngsters name their top leisure priorities for Diss

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Diss Youth Council. Chairman, Kieran Murphy, right. Picture Chris Morris
Diss Youth Council. Chairman, Kieran Murphy, right. Picture Chris Morris

A new and improved skate park, with a shelter, graffiti boards, good lighting and an opening ceremony.

This, according to a survey by Diss Town Youth Council, is what young people in Diss would like to see most.

The finding comes after youth councillors carried out a survey at Diss High School asking how, and which facilities for young people, should be improved.

The youth council has been asking its peers how money the town council has received through section 106 grants – paid by developers– could best be spent.

An improved skate park, was revealed as the top priority, followed by improvements in the park, sprucing up Diss Youth and Community Centre and a javelin run.

Sonia Browne, one of the lead councillors overseeing the youth council, said the results had proved interesting and praised the work of the youth council.

One of the most surprising findings however was that many young people in the town did not know what the youth and community centre is.

The findings were presented at a recent Diss Town Council meeting by youth council chairman Kieran Murphy, who told councillors that the process had been a positive one.

“Going into the school, showing them what we do and how we can help, bringing these things up and talking about money all helped show people that the youth do have a voice in what goes on,” he said.

“It was good to show that, and show we are there.”

Councillor Chris Liggett asked if cycling had been mentioned.

“We have had comments and discussions here about facilities for cyclists,” said Cllr Liggett.

“I appreciate, presumably, that you can’t have bikes and skateboards in the same place, but I do know that, following conversations with youngsters riding their bikes in the heritage gardens, they have said they would like extra ground in the sports ground,” she said.

“Have you had any feedback on that?”

Kieran said that, while there had not been any direct feedback about cycling, perhaps it could be incorporated, or any plans adapted based on further investigation about any final plans for the skate park.

Diss skate park on Shelfanger Road..Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
Diss skate park on Shelfanger Road..Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

Simon Olander said that some of the feedback he had heard in the past, in regard to the skate park, was that it was too remote.

Kieran replied: “I guess if it has a lot of votes that means people like it and think it needs improving. If people are voting for it, that means they must know what it is like.”

The youth council was officially launched in September. It currently has seven councillors, who are all students at Diss High School.

Its mission statements include: helping to build a more connected community; being a voice and advocate for young people; breaking down barriers for mental health, loneliness, disability, rural isolation and communication; promoting local opportunities; ensuring the voices of young people are heard and acted upon; and challenging the stereotyping of young people.

The survey results

* Diss Youth Council asked 256 pupils in different year groups at Diss High School which facilities they would like to see improved.

The skate park proved the most popular with 136 votes, facilities at the park received 110 votes, improvements at Diss Youth and Community Centre seven votes, and the javelin run three votes.

The fact that the youth and community centre received so few votes caused concern.

According to a youth council report: many young people did not know what the centre is.

Cllr Michael Crawford wondered if this was because it was “not used, not promoted, or the facilities were sub-standard”.

Youth council chairman Kieran Murphy replied: “We think that lots people use the centre for things like the youth club. The youth advisory board holds focus meetings, so lots of people use it.

“But I think with other things like the park and the skate park on the list, it wouldn’t have ranked so highly. Although people use it, it is perhaps not seen as fun, as the park or skate park.”

The youth survey was carried out last month.

It indicated young people would like any money spent on new equipment in the park, rather than repairs.

Early plans for the skate park include upgrading current equipment, a small shelter and graffiti boards, with one spray painted professionally, and improved lighting.

Young people did not want money spent on the javelin run in the sports ground as there is an alternative facility at the high school.

As a result of the survey, £5,000 has been earmarked for improvements to the skate park, £3,000 for play equipment at the park, and £9,878 for the youth and community centre.

A town council report notes: “The youth council, their youth worker and Cllr Browne all believe that, although no one voted for improvements at the youth centre, some money should be allocated here to benefit future youth-based activities, including a drop-in youth base for youth workers, citizens advice for young people and community connectors – equivalent to a help hub for young people.”

The Diss youth council report, said: “The youth centre is a very important building for young people that does need improvement, especially as many young people do not have places to go and, in consequence, get bored.

“Eventually, this leads to maybe finding other ways to entertain ourselves, which may not always be the best.”

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