Say no to £16,000 otter fence say the majority of Manea residents in a packed public meeting

Manea Pit. Picture: Steve Williams.

Manea Pit. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Calls for a pubic vote on controversial plans to install an otter-fence around Manea pit were made at a packed meeting.

Manea Pit. Picture: Steve Williams.

Manea Pit. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Around 200 villagers gathered at the Royal British Legion club to hear both sides put the case for and against the fence.

The vast majority were anti the fence, which will cost around £16,000.

Chairing the public meeting last night (Thursday 12), called by the opposition camp, was former parish and district councillor Pop Jolley.

Opening the meeting he called for calm and referred to the on-going war of words waged by both sides on social media. He said there was no place for that ‘kind of behaviour’ at the meeting.

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But he was forced on numerous occasions to call for quiet as hecklers from both sides interrupted speakers.

An opening show of hands brought overwhelming opposition to the fence with no more than 30 to 35 in favour of the fence.

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The meeting heard that without the fence otters, who are making a come back across the Fens, would decimate not only the fish stocks at Manea pit but also the wildfowl and other aquatic life.

Those in favour argued the otters arrival was ‘inevitable’ and unless the pit was protected it would be destroyed.

The argument against the fence was largely down to cost, the lack of evidence that otters would get into the pit and the fact the open beauty of the pit area would be lost.

Craig Scott, a member of the carp syndicate and life-long Manea resident, made an impassioned plea in favour the fence.

He said: “It’s not about some war on social media. I am very passionate about the village, I am very proud to say I’m a Manea person. I worry that if otters get into that pit then the fishing will be lost. It’s going to happen but it is something that can be avoided. The only way to protect it is to put a fence around it. It is not just about the fishing, it is about the pit, it’s about the village. Money from the fishing goes to help things like the youth club. If there is no fishing there will be no money.”

He was backed up by fellow fisherman Darren Evans who said otters had been seen in the vicinity making ‘predation’ by the nocturnal creatures almost a certainty.

Manea’s Fenland District Councillor Mark Buckton was among those to speak against the fence.

He said: “I am not sure we should put a fence round the pit because I haven’t seen any evidence of the inevitability of otters getting in the pit.”

And he criticised the parish council for not listening to the people and said the fence was being put up for the sake of 30 members of an ‘exclusive club’ most of whom do not live in the village.

He said: “The fence protects the pit for one group of people, and that’s the people who fish for carp - no carp club - no fence.”

Fellow opponent Lisa Eves pointed out the parish council was all set to make a decision on the fence at last month’s parish council meeting, only the intervention of the public had stopped it.

She argued the council was rushing the decision and asked how they could have carried out ‘due diligence’ on such a complex issue within the two months since the otter problem was first raised.

And she questioned whether the council, who leases the pit from the Environment Agency, had got permission to put the fence up in the first place.

“Is it being done legally or illegally,” she asked.

Parish council chairman Councillor Steve Emery said the pit needed protecting not just for the fishermen but for everyone else who uses the amenity including the village school children.

And he said: “Ideally I don’t want to see a fence round the pit, but I would rather see a fence than dead fish and wildfowl. I just don’t want to see all the hard-work, that has been put in down there to make it what it is today, lost.”

The meeting ended with a call for a public vote on the issue, but Cllr Emery refused to commit to that and said the matter would be discussed at the parish council meeting on May 23.

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