MP Jeremy Hunt: More town facilities for teens are essential

Friday 14th January 2022 9:15 am
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MP Jeremy Hunt: More town facilities for teens are essential

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ONE of the best bits of news for Farnham this year was the awarding of an MBE to Kylie Grimes for her Paralympic gold medal.

It was an extraordinary achievement: for someone who became disabled with a spinal injury after a diving accident to win a gold medal as the only woman in our Paralympic wheelchair rugby team was a massive deal.

We were all incredibly proud – and a number of us felt very privileged to be at her homecoming on Hale Recreation Ground in August organised by local councillor Catherine Powell.

As it happened, I spent time on Saturday afternoon with another Farnham Paralympian, the brilliant Rachel Morris MBE.

Rachel has won gold medals in both rowing and cycling, and since then inspired countless young people by visiting schools in the area and working with me on an annual event I introduced after the 2012 Paralympics – the Surrey Para Games.

I had the honour of presenting Rachel with a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, a moment I will always treasure.

I met Rachel and Farnham’s Alison Fitch outside the Farnham Leisure Centre to discuss what can be done to improve facilities for young people locally.

Rachel and Alison both think we should offer more, and we had a discussion about something that is gaining considerable popularity, called a pump track.

Made from the special tarmac used on BMX tracks, it has a big advantage in that it can be used by skateboarders and by those in wheelchairs at the same time – a big advantage for families with a disabled child who wants to play in the same area as his or her siblings.

How you fund such facilities – and where you put them – is not easy, and should only be decided after careful consultation with local people.

So as a first step Rachel and Alison want to organise a public meeting to discuss more broadly what can be done to improve youth provision.

But the issue strikes me as very important as we progress with wider plans to transform the town centre.

We have been giving a lot of thought as to how to make the centre of Farnham more pedestrian and family friendly which will be brilliant for younger families and senior shoppers alike.

But we must make sure all ages are catered for if we are to keep the town vibrant, so excellent facilities for teenagers are essential too.

For that reason, I have long admired the work of 40 Degreez, having been introduced to it by former Farnham mayor Janet Maines many years ago.

Janet got her MBE five years ago alongside… Rachel Morris – so there is no-one better to be carrying forward her lifelong interest in supporting the needs of young people.

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