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Uttlesford Community Action Network

Young people living in a village are helping to design their own youth garden and shelter to give them somewhere to socialise safely.

Teenagers from Barnston are working with Uttlesford Community Action Network (UCAN) to create their own area in the village to meet and spend time together.

A patch of land next to the village hall is being donated free of charge and young people will be able to use the site’s wi-fi during their visits to the shelter.

Richard Corby, UCAN operations manager, said: “Uttlesford is a 200 square mile district and transport links are not very good. There is not a lot for young people to do. We are aware of the pressing need for something for teenagers to do.

“We carried out research and the main thing young people are asking for is just a shelter where they can hang out together.”

Working with the village hall committee, the idea of a youth garden and shelter has been developed.

Young people are being involved in the design of the area to give them a sense of belonging.

The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £2,500 to Uttlesford Community Action Network from the 2022-23 Crime Prevention Fund to fund the shelter.

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said: “It is true that bored youngsters run the risk of being drawn into pastimes that are negative, and even criminal.

“So, it is vital that we invest in these kinds of projects as not only something wonderful for our young people to enjoy, but as a very real crime prevention measure.”

More funding has been gathered in memory of former youth worker Sharon Sellens who was passionate about gardening and being outdoors and a plaque or tree will be added to the garden to represent the contribution she made to young people’s lives.

Richard said: “This is all the things that Sharon loved and will be her legacy.

“Young people will be able to come here to hang out in the shelter in a nice area, close enough to the building that they can use the wi-fi to access their music and games. There will be lights in the evening, so they can meet their friends in a safe environment.

“At the moment, they hang around at the swings in the children’s playground or they are on the streets.

“This gives families a bit more community engagement and will foster some neighbourliness. We want our young people to be seen as an asset to the area. They can be innocently hanging around, but people can find that intimidating.

“If you do not give people something to belong to, the risk is they will go and find something to belong to that is not good for them. We are proud of our young people in the community; they are doing something brilliant.”

A steering group set up to plan the shelter will meet in September, with the hard landscaping being completed before the winter, with a view to launching in the spring.

A seasonal workshop will then be held every three months, giving young people an opportunity to take care of the gardens.

Essex Council for Voluntary Youth Services (ECVYS) has donated £1,700 to the project, with another £1,000 coming from the youth strategy group.

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PFCC for Essex, Kelvedon Park, London Road, Rivenhall, Witham, Essex, CM8 3HB
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