WHEN Andrew Stokes became leader of Witney Buttercross Scout Group five years ago, there were fewer than 100 children involved in its beaver, cub and scout packs.

The number has since more than trebled and Mr Stokes has been rewarded by being named Witney Town Council’s citizen of the year.

It is the largest group in the county and its success means a new group will be set up in the town later this month.

The 44-year-old said: “I feel very proud and privileged to get the award, but it is also for my team as they have worked very hard.”

Mr Stokes, a nightshift manager at Sainsbury’s in Swindon, lives in Quarry Road, Witney, with his wife Emma, 45, and children Riley, 15, and 13-year-old Tillie.

He joined the group as a cub when he was eight and has risen through the ranks, serving 18 years as cub scout leader until his promotion in 2009.

New sections have also been created since then, including a cub pack and two new scout troops, as well as a new scout group in Bampton last year.

There are now 12 sections and a new Cogges Scout Group is due to open later this month to cope with the large numbers.

A programme has also been set up to encourage 15-year-old members to train to become future scout leaders, with three youngsters already becoming full leaders.

Mr Stokes said: “Scouting is very important as it gives young people something to do and keeps them off the streets.”

He hopes the group will continue to grow when it eventually moves into a new headquarters.

It submitted plans in 2012 to convert the Stable Barn building, which stands opposite its Marlborough Lane base, into a state-of-the-art hub.

The group has launched a campaign to raise the £200,000 needed to refurbish the building and it hopes to move there next year.

Mr Stokes received his award from Witney mayor Peter Dorward at a civic reception at Langdale Hall.

Lyn Jones was given a certificate of outstanding merit for service to the community after helping Burwell Drive residents to transform a weedy, rubbish-filled site into a community wildlife garden.

A young citizen of the year award was also given to 11-year-old Charlie Dore.

The Witney Community Primary School pupil is a member of West Oxfordshire Hub’s young carers group.

He has helped his mum around the house with chores and mentors younger children at school.

Mr Dorward, who will step down as mayor today, said: “This is the nicest possible way to round off my year as mayor.

“It is gratifying to have the opportunity to sing the praises of these very extraordinary people that live right here in our town.”