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On Tuesday 7 March, Galashiels Academy hosted the launch of an innovative four-year partnership with PAS, an educational charity that encourages everyone to get involved with their places through the planning system. Click here to watch a two minute video of the event.

The Bridging Gaps project is the first of its kind in the UK encouraging a unique sustained partnership that will encourage and equip young people with the skills and tools of how to engage with planning their town and learn about decision making.

In addition to working with PAS the project will match students with partners from Scottish Borders Council, Energise Galashiels Development Trust and local Community Council to provide young people first-hand experience of learning to balance different demands, for example where do we put the affordable houses and what about play areas?

Planning Minister Kevin Stewart attended the first event of the project and spoke with students about the ideas the students have already identified to improve their town. He said:

“Planning affects everyone’s lives, so I’m delighted those involved in the Bridging Gaps project are providing a platform for young people to get involved. The project supports the ambitions outlined in our consultation on the current planning review, to encourage more people to get involved in planning, and give young people a stronger voice in the decisions about the future of the place they live in.

“I firmly believe that, through empowering communities, our planning system can help deliver great places and provide an attractive environment for investment through the uncertain times we live in.”

Petra Biberbach, Chief Executive of PAS said:

“Inspiring young people to participate in their communities chimes well with the key pillars of the Curriculum for Excellence, helping them to become responsible citizens, effective contributors and confident individuals.”

Last year, PAS and Galashiels Academy ran a month-long pilot project in which all 180 S2 students used the Scottish Government’s ‘Place Standard’ toolkit to assess the quality of their town and come up with ideas for the future.

Following on from las year’s pilot, the Bridging Gaps project will see students from Galashiels Academy help to test out new digital tools to help engage local communities in the future of their place, helping to develop a digital app for the Place Standard toolkit.

Kevin Ryalls, Headteacher of Galashiels Academy said:

“This is a great opportunity for Galashiels Academy pupils to really think about and explore the places where they live – and consider the things they would like to change in their community.”

Images courtesy of the Scottish Government.