HUNDREDS of young people have been having their say on the future shape of West Somerset by taking part in a major consultation on the district’s economy.
About 240 sixth form students gave their views to the experts working on West Somerset Council’s long-term economic ‘masterplan’ at a series of workshops held yesterday.
The event at West Somerset Community College, Minehead, was organised by the council and consultancy EKOS, which is developing the plan for the authority.
It is the first time young people have been consulted on the plan in this way.
Last year, the council asked EKOS to develop a 15-year strategy to help regenerate the local economy, retaining and creating jobs in West Somerset and supporting enterprise, training, tourism, and business growth.
EKOS director Adrian Dawson said: “We have been speaking to businesses, community groups, and many other people with an interest in the long-term future of West Somerset.
“It was important to get the views of the young people too, as they will be in work or training in the future and will be directly affected by economic developments in West Somerset over the next 15 years.
“It is vital for them that we get this right, and that is why we have sought their views now.”
The consultation event saw young people take part in two workshops led by EKOS, Somerset Rural Youth Project, and local councillors.
Their views will be used by EKOS to develop an action plan which will form part of the council’s strategy.
The plan’s action will be funded by the Government’s Working Neighbourhoods Fund, the South West Regional Development Agency, European Union funds, and other sources.
The college’s head of sixth form, Jerry Hardingham, said: “This event was well attended and the students found it extremely worthwhile.
“They contributed a number of excellent and imaginative ideas with real enthusiasm.
“They were a real credit to the college.
“Young people are the future of West Somerset, and the best way to ensure that the council’s plans meet their needs is to seek their views now.
“I am pleased that young people have been given the chance to be included in this important consultation.”
Council leader Councillor Keith Ross said: “We aim to create an economy that serves all of our residents and provides high quality, sustainable employment and business opportunities.
“Young people are key to maintaining sustainable communities, so we need to know what economic opportunities we should be providing to help keep our communities healthy, as well as boost the district’s future business prospects.
“This event has played an important part in developing our strategy, and I would like to thank the students and teachers for their enthusiasm and ideas, and for giving us a valuable insight into their aspirations for West Somerset’s economic future.”
The council’s economic development strategy is due to be finalised in March.
Our photograph shows Councillor Keith Ross (right) with college sixth form head Jerry Hardingham. Photo submitted.