Monday, 21 November 2011

Good turnout at Woodfuel Pathfinder contractors event

The function room at the Dog & Bear in Lenham was packed to the gunwales last Thursday as forestry contractors from Kent and Sussex gathered for a roller coaster update on apprenticeships and training, grants and the evolving market for woodland products.

Around 70 people representing a wide range of businesses with an interest in the forestry and woodland management sectors attended the event.  There was a lot of interest in the new woodfuel grant (WF WIG) from the Forestry Commission, LEADER and the new Farm and Forestry Investment Scheme (FFIS). 

Mike Furness from Ngage Solutions, the company responsible for delivering the WF WIG in the South East said:

"It was great to have a packed room to spread the word to.  We have already had two firm follow-up calls for significant roading schemes as a result of the event and we would encourage anyone with an interest to get in touch."

Feedback since the event also suggests a high level of interest in the LEADER and FFIS schemes, both of which are designed to assist rural businesses invest in green projects and new machinery.

There was a lot of debate on the night about how potential apprentices could be identified and retained in the forestry sector.  Some delegates also raised concerns about the cost of equipment and training for new staff.  However, a quick show of hands revealed that six businesses were considering taking on apprentices.  The training providers in attendance at the event (Plumpton College and Concept Training) also expressed great interest in supporting these businesses with work-based learning for apprentices.

The Forestry Commission provided a summary of how markets for woodland products, and in particular wood fuel, are developing and highlighted several examples of installed biomass heating schemes and local wood chip supply chains.

As the evening progressed a clear message emerged: A good package of support for the land-based sector still exists, and with the recent announcement of two major new grants (with a combined total of £30m funding) now is the time to pick up the phone and find out how your business can take advantage. 

The presentations from the event can be found here:

The imminent opening of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) at the end of November will provide a strong market-based opportunity for the forestry sector over the next few years.  If your business needs support on any of the subjects covered in this article then please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder on 01303 815 171 or

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