CAMPAIGNERS and nature lovers are celebrating as plans for a new £450,000 base at Saltwells Nature Reserve have moved a step closer to fruition.

A new purpose built warden base for the beaut spot, complete with a classroom, looks set to be given the green light by council bosses.

The popular reserve has not had a permanent base on site for years, with wardens and volunteers having to travel to the site each day.

It is hoped the new base will also act as a visitor and education centre, offering additional school visits, educational activities and forest schooling opportunities.

Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member for environment, highways and street services said: "We’ve decided that investing in Saltwells will benefit the reserve, the immediate community and the younger generation through a range of educational, training and apprenticeship opportunities which we hope the base will open up.”

The news was welcomed by campaigners who have been calling for a new warden base for nine years.

Cllr Jackie Cowell, who represents Quarry Bank and Dudley Wood, said: "This is great news, the end of a long journey. This is something that I've been pressing for since I joined the council in 2011. Fellow councillors and local people have been fighting for this from the moment the old base was pulled down in 2010.

"This is also a tremendous vote of confidence in Saltwells and all those who use it."

The plans were also welcomed by councillor and chair of the Saltwells Clean and Green Group Chris Barnett, who said the addition of classroom will be an opportunity for young people to learn about the environment.

Lucy Atherton, vice chair of the Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve, added: "This is fantastic news for Saltwells Nature Reserve and for all the people who visit and work hard to keep this important areas so beautiful.

"The new base will hopefully encourage more people into this fantastic area and enjoy all of the things it has to offer. The Friends group are absolutely ecstatic about this news.”

It is planned for the base to be built on council owned land next to the site entrance.

The proposals will be put to the cabinet on June 27, and if agreed, tenders will be sought over the summer to take on the work.