Work to install the controversial otter fence around Manea pit could start this month according to parish council chairman Steve Emery.
Plans for the fence has caused a rift between some villagers and members of a carp syndicate and has also led to the resignation of one parish councillor.
Despite a heated public meeting which saw the majority of people vote against the proposals last April and ongoing hostility between anti-fence campaigners and the parish council the chosen contractor has finally given a start date.
Work was expected to start last October when the parish council handed over £8,000 of the estimated £16,000 cost to the contractor to purchase the necessary materials, but Councillor Emery admitted there had been various reasons why the project has been delayed by nearly four months.
At last month’s council meeting some concerned parishioners raised the question of the cash amid concerns the fence was never going to get built.
Parish clerk Terry Jordan confirmed the contractor had offered to pay the money back by January 31, but the money had not been returned.
However, Coun Emery said he has been in contact with the contractor who has given Friday February 23 as one of two possible start dates for building the fence.
Coun Emery said: “He has given me two dates, one is February 23, but we don’t want him working if the ground is too wet or there’s a lot of wet weather so he has also given a date in early March.
“As a result of the assurance that he is going to start work on February 23 it doesn’t make sense for him to return the money.”
He admitted the contractor had given multiple “excuses” for not doing the work for the last couple of months but added: “I now have an email and a verbal promise that he is going to do the work. We haven’t had an actual start date before so hopefully the work will now go ahead.
“However, if he does break that promise and if he doesn’t turn up for whatever reason then going forward we may have to look at some other action. It’s a question of watch this space.”
Disagreement over the otter fence resulted in Dr Richard Hirson’s resignation after the parish council took an impromptu decision to disband the Manea pit management committee of which he was chairman.
Dr Hirson was on holiday at the time the decision was made and he believed it was taken in a bid to stop ongoing opposition to the fence, which the council argues is needed to keep otters out of the pit to protect the carp population. However, last summer the carp were struck down with carp herpes and fishing was banned for several months and many of the carp died. The pit is open for fishing currently but measures are in place where fisherman must clean their equipment in bins filled with disinfectant before and after fishing.
No restocking can take place for the next few years either.
The council argues otters will decimate the fish population and a carp syndicate - which has limited members most of whom live outside the village - bring in an income of around £3,000 a year. Fencing the pit will protect the fish and therefore protect the income.
But many villagers are angry at the fence proposal and claim it will destroy the natural openness and beauty of the pit.