The Forestry Commission has announced that the Woodfuel East Project has brought 9,880 hectares of undermanaged woodland across the East of England back into use since 2008, delivering an extra 114,600 tonnes of timber to the market and boosting the regional economy by more than £4.5m.
Launched in 2008 as a partnership project funded by the EU Rural Development Programme, the Woodfuel East Project sought to create a woodfuel supply chain, boosting availability, and bringing more woodland into sustainable management; thereby underpinning the Forestry Commission’s role to protect, improve and expand England’s woodlands.
Through the provision of grants, business advice, training and support, Woodfuel East has had a significant impact across the region. Between 2008 and 2013, an independent evaluation report published today shows that Woodfuel East not only brought more than 9,000ha of land into management, it supported 120 projects, created 36 new jobs and delivered more than 26 training courses.
Despite increasing demand for woodfuel and timber, a significant amount of woodland in the East of England remains underused. Woodland covers seven per cent of the region, but it’s estimated that less than half of this is managed; meaning landowners and local businesses are missing out on the harvesting of more than 200,000 tonnes of timber each year.
Jason Cooper, from Chopsticks Firewood, said: “There’s a huge demand for woodfuel across England driven by the upward surge in biomass boilers and wood burners, but the woodfuel market isn’t keeping pace. Woodfuel East has provided crucial incentives for businesses and landowners looking to make the most out of the market and in the areas where it matters most – business advice, training and grant support.
“Thanks to the programme, businesses like ours have been able to invest in woodland management, new equipment and specific facilities for storage, drying, harvesting and processing – all vital to a sustainable operation.”
Corinne Meakins, Local Partnership Advisor for the Forestry Commission, East and East Midlands Area said: “Woodlands are an important economic asset and woodfuel can be a significant source of income for landowners, there is a healthy demand for woodfuel driven by the Renewable Heat Incentive and farms, schools and other rural businesses are converting to use biomass. Also with schemes such as Grown in Britain gaining traction and generating interest in supply and demand, there hasn’t been a better time to make the most of the timber market.
“The Woodfuel East Project has been a huge success providing woodland owners and businesses with the equipment and training they needed to manage woodland for timber and wood fuel effectively and sustainably. Not only has it helped to deliver an additional 114,600 green tonnes of timber to market per year but Woodfuel East has also helped create much needed rural employment and training opportunities.”
For more information on woodfuel, please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-7WMGLZ
Funding for equipment may be available from round three of the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS) which has been launched by Defra and will close on Friday 4 April 2014. The FFIS is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and is a support scheme, developed to help farming, forestry and horticultural businesses in England. One of the five themes that are covered by FFIS is Forestry: http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources