Stamford teenagers take part in civic debate

Stamford Civic Society debate 21/6/11
Stamford Civic Society debate 21/6/11
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Teenagers took part in a lively debate which encouraged young people to contribute to the thinking on local civic issues.

Two teams from Stamford Endowed Schools and Stamford Queen Eleanor School spoke on the motion: This House believes that development for the future is more important for Stamford than preservation of the past.

They addressed an audience of councillors, parents and professionals from the business, church and educational sectors at the event at the town hall on Tuesday evening.

The debate was organised by Stamford Civic Society as part of its celebrations for national Civic Day which is taking place tomorrow. The society wanted to involve young people and worked with schools to develop Civic Day events.

The proposition speakers were Beth Cameron, who is 16 and goes to Stamford High School, Matthew Kew, 15, a pupil at Stamford School and Zoe Speirs, 15, of Queen Eleanor School.

The opposition speakers were Rebecca Burney, 17, of Stamford High School, Anya Evitts, 15 of Queen Eleanor School and Arthur Crawford, 15, of Stamford School.

Each pupil spoke on a wide range of issues.

The proposition speakers made a clear case for sensitive and appropriate development.

They pointed out that often people living in Stamford remember it for the shops and entertainments, rather than its historic past.

Without developments Stamford could turn into a museum town for retired people. New sports and leisure facilities as well as new shops would attract the younger generation.

There was a plea for a proper cinema with big screens. New shops would also provide good work opportunities for young people, who are trying to balance their education with earning some money. They also made the case for ecologically-sound and architecturally-satisfying developments, such as the ‘eco house’ in Exeter Gardens, and the new glass atrium at Stamford School.

They felt that the development of the Tobie Norris pub demonstrated that it was possible to have functional modern interiors in architectural gems.

The Opposition speakers countered with strongly-made points.

Stamford attracts and inspires people today because of its past. Many of its old buildings were constructed by merchants and businessmen, proud to live in a nice community with a good quality of life. Today the town maintains its charm – voted by the Daily Telegraph as the 8th best market town in the country to live in.

It is an exciting and vibrant place for young and old alike. Stamford was weathering the recession well, because of its individuality and character. With inappropriate development it would become just another clone town, with a high street filled with the same shops that you find everywhere else.

The speakers made clear that by opposing the motion they were not opposing development – only developments that would not fit in with the character of the town.

They highlighted the impressive range of buildings of architectural and historical interest that Stamford offers – to tourists as well as those who live here – and they noted the added attraction of Burghley House on our doorstep.

Both teams came up with an impressive range of statistics and other evidence to make their cases, and there was a lot of quick thinking, and humour, to challenge the points made by the other team.

A panel of three – Stamford mayor John Binder, Mercury editor Eileen Green, and Civic Society member David Nicol, a former businessman, university lecturer, accountant, and well-known in the local music world, questioned the two teams and then members of the audience were invited to contribute to the debate.

There was a clear feeling that although the teams had approached the motion from different positions they were both saying that Stamford was special, and that appropriate development was not a bad thing.

At the end, the proposition vote was carried by 18 votes to 12.

Society chairman Gwyneth Gibbs congratulated the school pupils for their efforts.

Eileen Green also praised the young people for coming up with such lively ideas.

“It’s never easy speaking to an audience in this way,” she said, “and I think all six young people did extremely well, not only with the comments they had prepared but also in answering the questions posed to them by the panel and the audience.