THE founder of a voluntary litter picking group in Bournemouth received a British Citizen Award for his services to the community.

Peter Ryan, who set up the Dorset Devils group in 2013, was among 30 people who were recognised at a prestigious medal presentation at the Palace of Westminster.

He was nominated for the award by Chris Colledge, chairman of Bournemouth in Bloom, and supported by Bournemouth councillor Dave Smith.

The British Citizen Awards, which are widely referred to as ‘the people’s honours', were introduced in 2015 to recognise extraordinary people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.

Peter created the Dorset Devils to help deal with the problem of litter locally, and the group now has more than 420 members, aged between four and 84. Each new volunteer comes to Peter’s home where they are fully kitted out and do a test pick, learning how to do it the 'DD way'. Then they each decide when, where and how long to pick up other people’s litter.

More than 7,000 large bags of litter have been gathered to date.

Peter gained much-needed funding and support from Bournemouth University, which allowed him to form his junior section (now 30 children) and expand the group.

Peter continues to raise awareness within the community in various ways and empowers local residents to take positive action with a smile on their face, which helps build community spirit.

In addition, he organises multiple events throughout the year with school groups, Scout packs, university students and local businesses including AFC Bournemouth. Peter, now retired, believes the more people who get involved, the more that can be achieved.

"The essence of the accolade is obviously a big thank you but, more importantly, to encourage others to do voluntary acts within their own communities," Peter said.

"Our group now exceeds 420 individuals helping do something positive where they live to make our town cleaner and healthier."

The Dorset Devils is currently involved in the Great British Spring Clean, which has already seen Bournemouth town centre given a clean-up with the help of local businesses and town rangers.