How to get things done in Britain: Council shamed after residents clean up nature reserve for fraction of £300k estimate

How to get things done in Britain: Council shamed after residents clean up nature reserve for fraction of £300k estimate
4th May 2011

A nature reserve has reopened to the public after residents ignored a council scheme with planned costs of £300,000 and did the repair work themselves for just £30,000.

The beautiful nature reserve on Holt Island in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, fell into disuse after it was subjected to attacks by vandals and its rotten walkways were swallowed by mud. Huntingdonshire District Council came up with a scheme to redevelop the area, which was expected to cost £300,000 and take three years to complete.

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People power: Some of the volunteers stand proudly on the Holt Island Nature Reserve walkway that they built for a fraction of the council's estimated cost

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Out with the old: This picture shows how much work needed to be done to transform the Holt Island Nature Reserve

However, a residents group has completed the same project in 18 months and for a tenth of the price by carrying out the work themselves for just £30,000. Volunteers, ranging from teens to pensioners, invested thousands of hours of their time to build new walkways, which allow wheelchair and pushchair access to the reserve.

Ian Jackson, 64, chairman of the Friends of Holt Island group, said volunteers were out ‘rain or shine’ to complete the project, which flies in the face of Government cuts. He said: ‘The old boardwalk had been there for 20 years and was falling apart meaning there was no access for pushchairs or wheelchairs. The friends group decided we would try and raise money to do up the walkway and we recruited volunteers from St Ives Rotary Club and other people in the town. The original plans meant the walkway did not stretch all the way to the entrance but we wanted everyone to have access so we raised £2,000 to add a 48-metre connection. As well as the great result of getting the walkway built in half the estimated time it was great to feel part of a team. The volunteers were out there rain or shine working on the walkway and I am so proud of all the work we have done. Community projects like ours are becoming more important with all the cuts that local councils have to deal with, but we are happy to take on the work.’

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Walk this way: A view of the new walkway that local volunteers built at the Holt Island Nature Reserve

The seven-acre Holt Island nature reserve was given to the town in 1934 by the Lord of the Manors and is famed for its beautiful flora and fauna. However, access to the site was lost several years ago when the 20-year-old wooden walkways began subsiding into the mud. Huntingdonshire District Council originally quoted £300,000 to repair the boardwalks and the scheme was expected to take over three years to complete. But last week the reserve reopened to locals 18 months ahead of schedule after community groups joined forces to complete the work themselves.

Park ranger Paul Claydon, 47, who manages the site for Huntingdonshire District Council, coordinated volunteer groups to carry out the work. He said: ‘I planned to do the project over two or three years, but we managed to get it done in 18 months. We hope the new path will last for 40 years. The volunteers, who range from 16 year olds to 70 year olds, have put in over two thousand hours of their time. The new boardwalk will increase access for pushchairs and wheelchairs so that more of the community can enjoy the wildlife. Work will continue to maintain the site with the help of volunteers.’

Source: Daily Mail UK.