Where there's a Will, there's a way

WILL Akast is very much an action man - in both his professional and private lives.He works for the Environment Agency as a technical officer with the fisheries, recreation and biodiversity team in Ipswich and covers Essex - from the River Stour south to the Thames and west to the River Mar Dyke.

By David Green

WILL Akast is very much an action man - in both his professional and private lives.

He works for the Environment Agency as a technical officer with the fisheries, recreation and biodiversity team in Ipswich and covers Essex - from the River Stour south to the Thames and west to the River Mar Dyke.

But Will believes conservation officer is a better way of describing his role.


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“My day job is to screen and comment on many of the various permits and activities the Environment Agency regulates to help minimise impacts to the natural environment.

“I comment on Environment Agency water resources and waste licences, discharge and land drainage consent applications.

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“I also respond to planning applications and input to local authority development plan policies. I check for adverse impacts on biodiversity, problems with particular species and/or sites and look for opportunities to enhance existing habitats or to create new ones.

“We try to put in place practices or alternative methods of work that will minimise the harm and disturbance to the environment. I also work regularly with our operations delivery team who do the actual work on the ground.

“It has an annual maintenance programme for the rivers and our various structures associated with them, including cutting riverbanks and weed cutting in the river itself.

“These operations all need to be carefully timed to avoid the bird and fish breeding seasons.

“A lot of our conservation work is carried out in partnership with other organisations such as Natural England, Essex Wildlife Trust, Essex Biodiversity Project, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Woodland Trust.”

Originally from Norfolk, Will, 33, now lives in Suffolk with his partner, Naomi, several chickens, two Indian runner ducks and a cat.

He attended Anglia Polytechnic in Cambridge, graduated with a degree in English and then completed a postgraduate diploma in conservation management at Otley College.

He enjoys cycling, hill walking and running and is taking part in the London Marathon on April 22.

In any spare time that's left Will admits to being a bit of a frustrated musician and wants to learn to play the drums.

Prior to joining the Environment Agency, he worked as a countryside ranger with Mid Suffolk District Council.

He has now been with the agency for three years and considers it was an excellent career opportunity - to do something different and develop his skills and experience.

Currently Will is working on a partnership project with the Woodland Trust - the UK's leading woodland conservation charity - on the River Colne at Fordham in Essex.

The Woodland Trust was given 500 acres of land and as part of its 'Trees for All' campaign to date has planted 250,000 trees on 300 acres of it.

The remaining 200 acres will be developed into a mosaic of habitats including woodland, wild flower meadows and wetland.

Success in this project is, he said, being achieved with the help of Operations Delivery Team staff - Keith West, Brian Crook, Paul Reese and Phil Taylor - and contractors, Mark Bowers, David Gamble and Paul Cooper.

The Environment Agency, for its part in the grand scheme, is contributing £15,000 worth of riverbank habitat enhancement along one kilometre of the river.

“Hopefully this river enhancement will provide improved habitat for fish, particularly fry and juveniles, as there is limited refuge currently available in the river for fish to avoid predators and to shelter from high river flows,” Will said.

The work will also provide a haven for existing wildlife and also encourage new species to thrive in the area such as waterfowl and Essex Biodiversity Action Plan species such as the otter and water vole.

It will re-shape stretches of the north bank from the present two to three metre 'cliff', to a profile with a more graduated edge.

This will encourage riverbank plants and marginal plants and provide a source of food and shelter for invertebrates, young fish, breeding birds and ultimately species such as the otter.

“I really enjoy being able to work closely with colleagues and partner organisations like the Woodland Trust and to see actual wildlife habitat enhancement take place on the ground as a result.

“The new re-profiled banks my colleagues have created look great and I am really excited at the prospect of seeing their wildlife interest develop over the next few years,” Will said.

Environment Agency website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Customer services line: 08708 506 506

Incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60

Floodline: 0845 988 1188

E-mail: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

www.woodland-trust.org.uk

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