Otley could help itself and its young people if more folk were willing to take an interest in the town's youth, says an Otley man.

For the last three years, John Lyon, 57, has been using the Wharfeside Cafe, known as Dunny's, as a meeting place for young people to come and enjoy themselves one night a week.

But Mr Lyon, who developed lung cancer in 1996, is appealing for help in his efforts to provide recreational activities for the group of young people who have come to use the cafe, known as 'Dunny's Crew'.

This week he told the Wharfedale: "Some months we have had outings to places such as Brimham Rocks, ice skating and barbeques at the top of the Chevin. We can get between 15 and 40 youngsters on a Wednesday night.

"At one point I was told that some of the young people that were coming in midweek were causing disturbances down Newmarket in Otley on a Sunday night.

"I started opening on a Sunday night and the problem stopped, or so I was informed.

"This just shows that keeping young people off the streets and entertaining them does work. What is needed is commitment from the people of Otley to cater for every group of young people in the town."

Mr Lyon would like to hear from adults who could help with the group and are interested in walking, forming a music group, or forming a youth church.

He would also like to hear from other people with ideas and general helpers, and added that references or checks could be made on new helpers.

He said that he recognised the concerns of the community over the unruly behaviour of youths in certain areas of the town, but that a different approach was needed.

He said: "While not condoning the reported behaviour of some young people, I do feel that it may be more constructive to get to the root of the problem. The reason these young people are in these areas is because they have nowhere else to go.

"Do we really think that they prefer to sit in cold draughty places by choice?

"They need someone who they can talk to, not just do activities with them. I could see the group expanding if things were done right."

On the suggestion of a youth church, Mr Lyon said that he felt this was a good idea, but that it needed to have an appeal to the young people.

He said: "There is a need for a youth church to be run by the youth, under adult supervision, of course.

"However, the needs of the young must be met and therefore there must be a happy, entertaining feel to any meeting."

Anyone interested in making contact with Mr Lyon can contact him on (01943) 464340, or go along to the Wharfeside Cafe in Bridge Street, Otley, on a Wednesday evening from 7pm until 9.30pm.

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