Friday, 21 December 2012

Latest forest Inventory reports published

The Forestry Commission have released the latest National Forest Inventory (NFI) which estimates quantities of broadleaved species in British woodlands.  Due to the outbreak of ash dieback (Chalara) this edition of the NFI has a special focus on ash.

The NFI provides a record of the size and distribution of forests and woodlands in Great Britain and information on key forest attributes. 
Total woodland cover with
proportion of ash by NFI region

This report provides estimates of the stocked area, numbers of trees and standing volume in living broadleaved trees within forests and woodlands in Great Britain as at 31 March 2011.

The report provides a particular focus on the ash species, expressing estimates of quantities of ash in the context of quantities of all broadleaved species. 

Information in this report includes estimates for England, Scotland and Wales, and individual regions within England and Scotland, each broken down by Forestry Commission and private sector ownership. 

Stocked area by principal broadleaved species
Estimates are also provided for individual age and size classes of the broadleaved and ash tree populations.

More detailed reports and analysis can be found on the Forestry Commission website here.

Key Findings

  • The estimated stocked area of broadleaves within Great Britain is 1.3 million hectares
    • 142 thousand ha is ash (or 11% of all broadleaves and 5% of all species (both conifer and broadleaves).
  • There are 1.4 billion broadleaved trees in British woodlands of over 0.5 hectares (of which ash trees are estimated to number 126 million)
  • In addition, there are an estimated 4.2 billion broadleaved seedlings and saplings in British private sector woodlands
    • of which ash constitutes an estimated 39%.
  • Total broadleaved standing volume on the private sector estate is estimated to be 227 million m3
    • the estimate for the Forestry Commission estate is 13 million m3.
  • Ash accounts for approximately 14% of total broadleaved standing volume in Great Britain.
  • Ash tends to be younger and marginally smaller than broadleaved species as a whole:
    • Trees aged between 20 and 100 years account for most broadleaved standing volume; while for ash very little is over 80 years of age.
Information on the amount and distribution of ash trees outside NFI woodland can be found on the Countryside Survey website. This report includes small copses of less than 0.5 hectares, linear features containing trees less than 5 metres in width (including hedgerows and lines of trees) and individual trees (including some veterans).

The key findings from this report are as follows:
  • Key Findings The estimated area of ash in Broadleaved woodlands <0.5ha in size is 21.69 000ha.
  • Ash is found in different landscape components, in fields and field boundaries, alongside rivers and streams and particularly in hedgerows.
  • Ash is the fourth most abundant tree species in small woodland patches (<0.5ha) in GB after Oak, Birch and Hawthorn.
  • It is more abundant in England (12.1 000ha) than Scotland or Wales but in England Sycamore and Beech are also abundant.
  • There are estimated to be 2.7 million individual ash trees (outside of woodland) in the countryside and ash is the 2nd most common species of individual tree.
  • Most ash trees tended to be in low to mid-range DbH categories i.e. >40% between 21 and 50cm DbH.
  • There were very few veteran ash trees.
  • Ash is the most common hedgerow tree species (i.e. species growing as a full standard as part of a hedgerow).
  • The estimated length of woody linear features (hedgerows and lines of trees) composed of ash is 98.9 000km across GB with most of this (86.1 000 km) found in England.
  • In analyses based on repeated vegetation plots ash trees increased in number of plots occupied on linear features, which include hedgerows, between 1978 and 2007 and in the number of area (field) plots occupied between 1990 and 2007.

Kent Tree Health Information Day

Status at 11/12/2012

Over 200 people attended the Forestry Commission's Tree Health Information Day on December 18th where a detailed briefing on Ash dieback (Chalara Fraxinea) was delivered to forestry professionals from Kent and the wider South East.

The detailed presentations from a range of tree experts included an update on the scientific understanding of Chalara, the current status of the outbreak in the UK and the control plan that was recently introduced by Defra.

The full list of presentations, which can be found on the Forestry Commission website, were as follows:

  • Simon Hodgson - Introduction
  • Dr Joan Webber - Science Update
  • Bruce Rothnie - Chalara, where we are now
  • Martin Ward - Tree Health & Plant Biosecurity
  • Andrew Smith - The Chalara control plan
  • Dr Gary Kerr - Trees in the Landscape, silvicultural guidance on adapting to chalara
  • Jim Quaife - Trees in the built environment

This event was one of two information days delivered by the Forestry Commission during December, the other being in East Anglia where the other significant outbreaks of Chalara are located.

The event provided a chance for forestry professionals to engage with tree health experts and seek guidance on managing affected woodlands.

The Kent event also included an exhibition involving a range of related organisations, including:

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

RHI update and summary of changes to RHI Register

This post provides an update on the RHI and summarises the recent changes made by Ofgem to some of the RHI application questions.

Progress update

Overall the number of biomass RHI applications has risen from 276 on September 25th to 585 on December 11th.  

Source: Ofgem public report - Dec 11, 2012
Source: Ofgem public report - Dec 11, 2012
This is a significant increase and indicates that the scheme is beginning to make progress.  

However, this scheme overall is still far behind the original forecasts and around £30-35m will be returned to the Treasury at the end of March.

Meanwhile, the consultation on the domestic version of the RHI closed on December 7th, the results from which  are due in March 2013.  More details, including the recent consultation addendum relating to a subsidy cap and its impact on heat pump tariffs, can be found here.

Application changes

With regards to the changes to the application questions Ofgem points out the following:
  • No extra information is necessary with the update to these questions.
  • The requirements are the same as before, questions have been reworded to improve the quality of RHI applications made, and ensure the application questions assist applicants understand what is required first time, both in terms of question responses and document uploads.
The following questions have been updated  - the changes are in brackets:
  • HD170, (Please select the type of premises in which heat from the installation (for which you are applying) is used. Please upload evidence of non-single domestic status at the document uploads at the end of the application (eg Non-Domestic (Business) Rates bill, multiple Council Tax bills or equivalent / similar evidence))
  • HG150, (Will the installation use any of the following fossil fuel-derived fuels: You can select more than one answer for this question)
  • HI150, (Please provide a meter reading for this meter. If this is not your first submission of this application then please do not change this meter reading unless agreed with Ofgem. This reading may need to be updated if, for example, you have made changes to metering requiring new readings, or your installation, heating system or application information has undergone significant amendments.)
  • HI151a-1/HI151B-2 etc, (Please provide the date on which this reading was taken (this should be no more than three days before the date on which the application is first submitted to Ofgem).
  • HK110, (Please enter the serial number of your installation. E.g. for boilers you will find this on the boiler name plate. Please upload a photo of your boiler name plate AND a copy of your invoice showing the date of purchase and model of your heat generating equipment (at the document uploads at the end of the application), OR a copy of your commissioning certificate showing model, capacity and commissioning date.)
  • HK120, (Please provide a comprehensive description of your installation, including the make & model of the main components. For further details of the information that should be included here, please refer to guidance and available applicant information.)
  • HL99, (Please confirm if you wish to Upload or Post the documents as supporting evidence? Please note that uploading documents is likely to mean the accreditation process is quicker.You must however always send bank and ID information under separate cover by post as instructed. Please do not change this setting to “post” if you have previously selected “upload”. Contact the enquiry line if you have any problems, and please see the IT system user guide for help on creating and uploading PDFs.)
  • HL170, (Please provide a comprehensive schematic or diagram of the heating system of which your installation forms part. This must include the following: 
    • All plants providing heat to the heating system, whether eligible or ineligible 
    • All uses supplied with heat from the heating system, both eligible and ineligible 
    • The pipework connections between all plants and heat uses, including clear indication of any pipework not located within a building 
    • The positions of relevant hot water and steam meters and their associated components.(e.g. both temperature sensors, flow meter and integrator). 
    • Please ensure that all of the items listed above are clearly labelled, that the schematic has a key, and that building boundaries are indicated.)

The application register can be found here and the application guidance here.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Wood pellets and carbon monoxide poisoning

We have been alerted to new guidance from the HSE relating to carbon monoxide poisoning and wood pellets and specifically the storage of wood pellets.

The precautions suggested are practical and low cost.  Good design can mitigate the risk and training of operatives is essential.

What is carbon monoxide? 

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that is highly toxic. When carbon monoxide enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs. It can kill quickly without warning. See Wikipedia and Carbonmonoxidekills for more details.

How many deaths have been linked to wood pellets? 

Since 2002 there have been at least nine fatalities in Europe caused by carbon monoxide poisoning following entry into wood pellet storage areas. Although there have not been any incidents so far in the UK the use of wood pellets is increasing and awareness of this danger is required.

Fatalities caused by the release of carbon monoxide from wood pellets have previously been reported in Europe following personnel entering ships cargo holds (four) or storage silos (two).

Since 2010 there have also been three deaths caused by entry into wood pellet storage facilities in domestic sites. Two were associated with a work activity and the other was a householder. In each case, the entry had been to resolve a technical problem.

Background to wood pellets

Wood pellets are made from dried and milled sawdust and wood shavings that have been compressed into pellets, typically 10-20mm long and 3-12mm in diameter. They do not typically contain any additives or binders.

They are classed as a biofuel, a non-fossil heating fuel. The main countries of manufacture are Canada, North America and the Scandinavian countries within Europe. In 2000, the annual production of wood pellets in Europe and North America was about 1.5 million tons. This was expected to increase to around 16 million tons by 2011. Some wood pellet manufacture is now taking place in the UK.

Factors affecting the amount of carbon monoxide released from wood pellets

Wood pellets for boilers are normally stored in a large sealed hopper/tank or a storage room that has a screw feeder (auger) connected to the boiler. Alternatively, the hopper/tank can be mounted over the boiler for gravity feeding. 

Due to the enclosed nature of these hoppers/tanks/rooms, the atmosphere inside can become oxygen depleted and a toxic atmosphere containing carbon monoxide can accumulate. The chemical reactions responsible for carbon monoxide production from wood pellets are assumed to be an auto-oxidation process, especially oxidation of the fatty acids to be found in wood4.

Experimentation has shown that small quantities of wood pellets can produce life-threatening quantities of carbon monoxide in a confined space and that there are various factors that will affect the amount of carbon monoxide produced:

  • Age: Pellets will produce more carbon monoxide within the first six weeks of being manufactured.
  • Temperature: More carbon monoxide is produced at higher temperatures.
  • Wood type: Pellets made from pine contain more unsaturated fatty acids than spruce so produce more carbon monoxide.
  • Other factors: Carbon monoxide levels will also increase with the amount of available oxygen present, exposed pellet surface area and amount of mechanical abrasion of the pellets that has taken place.
  • Note: In addition to the risk of carbon monoxide from wood pellets there is also a possibility of carbon monoxide being present because of a back-flow of flue gases via the fuel supply mechanism from the boiler. Causes for this include inadequate equipment being installed or a poorly designed flue.

Action required

The HSE is advising all those who use, install, maintain or distribute wood pellet boilers and/or manufacture/store/distribute wood pellets to consider the following:
  • Wood pellet hoppers/tanks/storage rooms and boilers should always be installed and commissioned by a competent person, normally approved by the manufacturer/supplier. This is particularly important if the installation involves the replacement of a coal-fired boiler, where existing boiler room and storerooms are often utilised.
  • Do not enter the pellet storage area or place your head into a wood pellet hopper as they can contain toxic gases. No personnel should enter the hopper/tank unless fully trained and competent in confined space entry procedures. Controls should be put in place to ensure safe entry as per the HSE's Code of Practice for Working in Confined Spaces5. This should include adequately ventilating the storage area and checking carbon monoxide and oxygen levels with an appropriate device prior to entry. It is recommended that the store room is ventilated at all times, either mechanically or by being designed to have a through draft.
  • Ensure that the boiler and pellet feed mechanism etc. is cleaned and serviced by a competent person as specified by the manufacturers' instructions.
  • If any problems are encountered with the unit, such as the system not heating correctly or flue gas is flowing into the boiler room, turn the unit off and contact the supplier and/or manufacturer and request assistance.
  • Duty holders who store wood pellets, particularly in bulk should have a suitable risk assessment and safe system of work in place.
  • Manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of wood pellets should provide adequate health and safety information to the user in their materials safety data sheet.
  • Warning signs should be placed on the pellet storage area access door, ideally on both sides so it can be seen when the door is open. The warning sign should include the following information:
  • DANGER - RISK OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING - There is a danger to life from odourless carbon monoxide and lack of oxygen. Check atmosphere before entry with an appropriate device. No entry for unauthorised persons. Keep children away from the storeroom.
  • No smoking, fires or naked flames.
  • The room should be adequately ventilated before entering. Keep the door open whilst inside.
  • There is a danger of injury from movable parts.
  • Filling procedures should be carried out accordance to the instructions of the heating installation company and the pellet suppliers.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Update on RHI scheme

As the first anniversary of the Renewable Heat Incentive approaches we thought we would take a quick look at progress to date.

In terms of overall numbers the results are modest.  In England the number of accredited installations is 406.  Of these 358 (88%) are for biomass boilers, 25 (6%) for solar thermal and 19 (5%) for ground source heat pumps.

Data Source: Ofgem, 19/11/2012
The relatively low uptake in the solar thermal and ground source categories is interesting and suggests that these technologies are yet to find traction in commercial situations.  This low uptake may also be due to the popularity of the Feed in Tariff which has probably diverted attention towards solar PV, particularly where biomass is not an option.

The results also show that the RHI tariff is yet to be used for deep geothermal, municipal sold waste or bio-methane installations.  As these technologies are often used at larger scales it may be that other incentives are being favoured, such as the Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC).  Another factor is the high capital cost of these technologies which undoubtedly take longer to plan and finance.  Uptake of the RHI might therefore pick up in time, but in the absence of any other information from DECC (e.g. pre-accreditation) it is hard to tell.

Biomass romps ahead

At 358 installations (commercial) biomass heating is leading the renewable heat scene at the moment.  Based on our experience these installations are mainly to be found on farms and estates and often focus on a large property that is connected to multiple domestic and non-domestic properties in close proximity.  We are also seeing smaller domestic systems that involve multiple dwellings connected to a single boiler.

Date Source: Ofgem, 19/11/2012
Uptake in the new build/refurbishment sectors is happening, albeit at a much slower rate.  While planning applications for large regeneration projects and new housing are coming through, particularly in the Growth Areas and Growth Points of Kent, the specification of biomass heating is rare, which seems odd given the interest from private finance houses in RHI-based investments and ESCo business models.

The integration of other renewable heat technologies alongside biomass does not yet appear to be common either.  Even though solar thermal and biomass are best friends, to use a Jamie Oliver saying, we are yet to see it in action.  This may be because of high capital cost of biomass which could be excluding secondary/complementary technologies (i.e. biomass is often sized to be as close to 100% of the heat load as possible with oil for peak which often makes the business case for complementary technologies less attractive).

Uptake in Kent?

Unfortunately the Ofgem statistics do not allow analysis at region or county levels.  However, based on the work we are doing and the people we speak to, many of the large farm estates (particularly those with woodland interests) have made enquiries about the RHI and biomass technologies and several sites have gone ahead with projects.

Kamstrup heat meter in action
However, in the grand scheme of things uptake is still slow.  We think that whilst interest levels are high the upfront capital cost of biomass remains the single largest barrier and prevents many from proceeding further.  We know from the pre-feasibility studies we have carried out for people that the business case for biomass in the right situation is extremely compelling (i.e. 5 to 6 year payback, 10%+ return over the lifetime of the installation, 50% fuel cost reduction for wood chip).

650 kW Binder at Hever Castle
Whilst we agree that biomass heating projects have a long lead in time, and take considerable project/business development, there may be a case for installing presenting finance options (if they have them) at a much earlier stage.

Domestic RHI on its way...

Don't forget that the purely domestic version of the RHI is being consulted on at the moment.  This scheme is due to open in Q2 or Q3 2013.  Our current thinking is that the tariff proposed for domestic biomass in the consultation is currently too low to make a significant difference in payback (and thus uptake).  If you are interested in the RHI and are in a situation where you could qualify for the commercial RHI (e.g. 2 or more domestic dwellings connected to a single boiler) you may well be better off taking action now.  We hope that the tariff under the domestic RHI improves and we will keep a keen eye on the consultation response by DECC.

Can we help?

The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder can provide pre-feasibility support for people considering biomass heating.  By 'pre-feasibility' we mean the assessment of viability and the development of an initial (non-market tested) business case.  We can also support people as they engage with the installer network.

If you would any help with the RHI and biomass heating then please get in touch with us on 01303 815 171 or  

Due to the way our project is funded our support needs to be provided mainly within Kent and should preferably link to woodfuel supply chains in/near the Kent Downs AONB.  If in doubt just call!  

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Woodfuel WIG - FREE whole-day workshop

Video: How to identify Ash dieback (Chalara Fraxinea)

Well worth watching this short video if you need to know more about how to spot Ash dieback.  

Now that it's autumn, you will need to look for the characteristic lesions of dieback, rather than for leaf symptoms.

The latest outbreak map from the Ashtag project is shown below.

Courtesy of on Nov 15, 2012.

The lastest

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

CLA Woodfuel Event

Friday, 26 October 2012

Update on community energy and Green Deal

To be helpful we thought we'd end the week with a round up of some of the recent announcements on community energy and the Green Deal.

Whilst  these announcements are not about woodfuel or biomass heating they are related and it would be remiss of us not to mention them.  For example, insulating a building properly can help to reduce the size of biomass boiler required and in-turn the amount of woodfuel required.

Here are the headlines, more details below:

  • Green Deal Cashbacks – hundreds of pounds for those who subscribe to Green Deal early
  • Green Deal - assessments – bookings underway
  • Green Deal - advice line opens
  • Green Deal - “Quick Guides” published
  • Energy Bill Blitz - £40m competitions for local authorities
  • PlanLoCaL interactive pack for communities on Green Deal
  • Consultation on domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)  - open to 7 December 
  • Call for evidence on onshore wind and community benefit – open to 15 November

Green Deal Cashbacks
Cash back rates under the Green Deal
The Green Deal ‘Cashback’ Scheme is a first-come, first-served offer where householders can claim cash back from Government on energy saving improvements like insulation, front doors, windows and boilers. Packages could be worth over £1,000. It is available from 28 January 2013 for households in England and Wales and is a time limited offer. For cashback amounts see the DECC website.  Customers wanting to find out more about the Green Deal can call the Energy Saving Trust Advice Service on 0300 123 1234. 

Green Deal Assessments
Booking is underway for Green Deal assessments. Visit the website for further information for further information on assessments.  British Gas launched its Green Deal service this week.

Green Deal advice line opens:
Tel : 0300 123 1234.

Green Deal “Quick Guides” published:

Energy Bill Blitz – £40m competitions for local authorities:
The Government is putting local action at the heart of efforts to keep energy bills down and homes warm, with a £40 million competition aimed at driving local initiatives to boost energy efficiency, reduce fuel poverty and encourage collective switching and purchasing. Read the full press notice.

Centre for Sustainable Development – guide for communities on Green Deal 
PlanLoCaL (CSE) is preparing an interactive pack for communities on the delivery of the Green Deal - available from January 2013.  “Exploring Technologies” webpage also offers links to Plan LoCaL exercises to help community groups scope all their local potential resources of renewable energy.

Call for evidence on onshore wind and community benefit - closes 15 November

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Update from Forestry Commission: EWGS application process, Larch felling moratorium and ash dieback (Chalara)

New application process

The Forestry Commission (FC) has created an online facility which allows applicants to apply for EWGS, felling licences and to submit agent authority forms. As an alternative to our paper forms applicants can now complete and submit applications via our website, which will then be sent straight to our Area offices for processing. This can save time and money on needing to print and post forms and provides a one stop shop for those who wish to carry out their work online. 

Screenshot of new application gateway
For more information on our forms and how to sign up please visit the Webforms and Guidance page of our website. To help assist you with the application process we have also created an easy to use guide which can also be viewed here. Paper forms will continue to be available to applicants as well.

Interested in Woodfuel WIG, but concerned about getting a Management Plan (WPG)?

To access Woodfuel WIG applicants must have a current management plan. However, The FC recognises this might be a stumbling block to accessing Woodfuel WIG for some applicants. Therefore, if an applicant wishes to apply for Woodfuel WIG on part of their woodland, it is acceptable to produce a management plan specifically for the area included in the WWIG.

Applicants must be aware that whilst this is acceptable for Woodfuel WIG it is not acceptable for WPG and will therefore, not be eligible for funding under the terms of WPG. In order for a management plan to be funded through WPG it must cover the entire ownership within a landscape unit. This is deemed as meeting the ‘property’ requirements as per Operations Note 3.

Larch Felling Moratorium

As with previous years the FC is introducing a moratorium on the felling of larch during the winter
months due to Phytophthora infection. Full details are available in a revised Operations Note 23. This moratorium affects the felling of larch in zone 1 only. There have been recorded outbreaks of the Phytophthora pathogen in Zone 2, but these are isolated incidences mainly associated with previous rhododendron infection. The FC has decided therefore not to extend the ban on approving larch felling to Zone 2 for this winter. The FC will resume the processing of felling licenses containing larch during May 2013.

EWGS and RDPE Transition

The current RDPE programme (2007-2013) is drawing to a close and negotiations are under way with the EU, Defra and the delivery bodies (FC/NE/RPA) to plan the transition to the next programme. The FC objective, so far as is possible, is to allow existing commitments and ongoing applications to continue with minimum change. However the following issues are highlighted to allow applicants time to plan ahead. Please note these are based on the current situation and could change. Budget pressure across the RDPE programme as a whole may mean the FC has to cease accepting applications before 31st December 2013.

Ash foliage affected by Chalara
Chalara dieback of ash (caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea)

Letters have been sent to Forestry Commission customers whose trees or woodlands may be at risk, a copy of the letter and further information are available on the dedicated Chalara webpage.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ecosystem services from Environmental Stewardship that benefit agricultural production

Natural England has released a new report entitled "Ecosystem services from Environmental Stewardship that benefit agricultural production".  Given that trees and woodland form a key part of the agricultural landscape we've taken a quick look at the report to see what it says about them.

We've borrowed heavily from the report for this article - for the complete document click here.


This report reviews the ecosystem services provided by Environmental Stewardship (ES), the main agri-environmental scheme in England. It is concerned with those that are of benefit to agricultural (especially crop) production.

  • Ecosystem services can be described as the full range of benefits that people and societies obtain from biological systems, including provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services.
  • Key ecosystem services considered include soil formation, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, water regulation and purification, genetic resources, pest regulation and pollination.

Role of Environmental Stewardship in providing ecosystem services

Environmental Stewardship has the potential to enhance a range of ecosystem services of benefit to agricultural production, though relatively few options have been designed specifically with this purpose in mind. 

Farm woodland in the Sevenoaks area
ES options generally involve either taking land out of production or modifying the production system to enhance environmental benefits, thus reducing production. Indeed, payments to farmers for their participation in the scheme are calculated on the basis of 'profit foregone' as a result of taking up the options concerned. 

Although ES options may enhance overall primary production in some cases (e.g. of woodland or hedgerows), they do not generally increase agricultural production. However, they may help to reduce costs of production by reducing use of inputs such as diesel or fertiliser on less productive areas of land.

ES options involving trees, hedges, woodland, scrub and orchards
What do the results show?

The following sections summarise the role played by trees and woodland in providing ecosystem services in the context of ES and agriculture.

In-field trees
Hedgerow planting on farmland near Ightham
  • In-field trees can substantially contribute to carbon sequestration and soil formation by providing organic matter for decomposition.
  • The overall impact is likely to be small, although there should be some benefit overall at the national scale.
  • Ancient trees will not sequester carbon to the same extent as younger trees. However, this option will prevent the destruction of older trees and so limit the release of stored CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • For ancient trees on cultivated land, the 15m radius grass area around the base of the tree will provide some of the benefits of an in-field buffer.

Woodland edges
  • Woodland edges will provide a year-round cover of vegetation that can sequester carbon, contribute to soil organic matter accumulation and reduce water erosion.
  • Any reductions in wind erosion due to the woodland edge option are likely to be negligible compared to the protection afforded by the woodland itself.

Wood pasture and parkland
  • Wood pasture and parkland puts relatively little pressure on the land and so it is sustainable, assuming that it is managed appropriately.
  • There is a year-round cover of vegetation and the trees can sequester and store relatively large amounts of carbon.
  • Whilst there is no direct evidence from wood pastures, their potential for sequestration and/or contributions to soil fertility can be inferred from data relating to woodland.
  • Poulton et al (2003) quantified C and N content of soil in land that was arable for centuries until the late 1800‘s and has since reverted to woodland. The acidic site (mainly oak) gained 2.00 t C/ha/yr over the 118-year period (0.38 t in litter and soil to a depth of 69 cm, plus an estimated 1.62 t in trees and their roots); there were also gains of nitrogen.
  • Hughes-Clarke & Mason (1992) examined 35 field corner plantations adjacent to arable fields and noted a significant increase in total N and total C under the plantations compared to the arable land.

High forest near Sevenoaks
Trees can increase the rate of infiltration (Broadmead & Nisbet, 2004) which will assist in water regulation. Work in the Pontbren region in Wales has demonstrated that areas of sheep pasture planted with trees can increase the infiltration rate by up to 60 times after 6 years, although significant increases were observed after only two years (Carroll et al., 2004). 

Creation of wood pasture (HLS option HC14) will have the greatest benefit, but restoration and maintenance options (HC12 and 13) will also have benefits in terms of maintaining the ecosystem services provided by these habitats.

  • The role of woodlands in regulating water quantity will be the primary benefit to agricultural production, although the beneficiary may not be the farm implementing the option, but a farm downstream.
  • Managed woodland can be used for the production of wood as well as livestock.
  • Carbon sequestration in conifer and broadleaf woodland is estimated to be in the order of 11 t/ha/year.

  • The presence of a vegetative cover can assist in preventing soil erosion and creating a reservoir for beneficial soil biota.
  • Where it is used as a buffer, there will be some benefit to agricultural production due to reduced losses of soil and associated soil organic matter, and a reduced potential for runoff.

No Mans Orchard near Canterbury
  • These systems, like woodlands and wood pastures, put little pressure on soil resources and can contribute to soil formation and water regulation.
  • ES option HC21, creation of traditional orchards, will have major ecosystem services benefits if created from more intensively managed land, whilst options HC18, HC18 and HC20, will benefit agricultural production as the orchard will be maintained or restored so that fruit production continues, whilst also providing other ecosystem services.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Need an apprentice?

Did you know that there are several apprenticeship schemes operating in Kent at the moment?  Neither did we!  Following a chance conversation with someone from Shepway District Council, where an apprenticeship scheme has been launched, we thought we would provide a basic briefing about apprenticeships and provide links for further reading.

Time to investigate?

We all know what woodland management/forestry/arboriculture is a tough job and finding new entrants into the sector can be hard.  However, we do know that there are many people aged 16-24 who are interested in the environment, keen to work outdoors and who are not cut out for the academic life at university.

At the national level the recent report by the Independent Panel in Forestry calls for a "...revival of a woodland culture that appreciates how important trees are for people, for nature and the economy".  It also calls for an increase of woodland cover in England from 10% to 15% by 2060.

At the local level the markets for woodfuel of all types are starting to expand, not least due to the resurgence in the use of firewood and incentives such as the RHI.  In addition the Forestry Commission is working hard to identify non-managed woodland and is seeking new and innovative ways to motivate owners to manage them.

Given that there is now so much financial support for apprenticeships now is a also good time to investigate if you are considering expanding your business.

Please note that we have borrowed heavily from the National Apprenticeship Service for this article.  Their website is very useful and provides a lot more detail than is covered here.

What are apprenticeships?

They are work-based training programmes designed around the needs of employers, which lead to national recognised qualifications. You can use Apprenticeships to train both new and existing employees. Funding is available to train apprentices (more on this later...).

As apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, most of the training is ‘on the job’. The rest can be provided by a local college or by a specialist learning provider, or you could deliver everything yourself.  As the employer you must give your apprentices an induction into their role and provide on-the-job training. You are also responsible for paying your apprentices’ wages.

Employment must be for at least 30 hours per week. In some cases the number of hours can be lower but must be more than 16 hours per week.

Why take on an apprentice?
  • Over 80% of those employers who take on apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive.
  • 81% of consumers favour using a company which takes on apprentices.
  • The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £2.65 per hour. Many employers prefer to pay more however, and research shows that the average salary is approximately £170 per week.
  • Employers who take on a 16-18 year old apprentice only pay their salary. The Government funds their training.
  • There are more than 250 different types of Apprenticeships available offering over 1,400 job roles.
  • 92% of employers who employ apprentices believe that apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
  • 83% of employers who employ apprentices rely on their apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future.
  • One in five employers are hiring more apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate.

Apprenticeship funding is available from the National Apprenticeship Service. The size of the contribution varies depending on your sector and the age of the candidate. If the apprentice is aged 16–18 years old, you will receive 100% of the cost of the training; if they are 19-24 years old, you will receive up to 50%; if they are 25 years old or over you may only get a contribution depending on the sector and area in which you operate.

This is paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the apprenticeship; in most cases this will be a learning provider.

Which schemes are running?

We mentioned the Shepway scheme at the start of this article:
  • Grants of up to £1,500 to Shepway businesses to encourage them to employ local people as apprentices.
  • Any Shepway business can apply, although we have a focus on businesses with fewer than 10 employees. 
  • Applications will be considered on a case by case basis with appropriate checks made (e.g. with Companies House) to try to ensure that the apprenticeship is not ended prematurely due to company failure.
  • We offer grants of up to £1,500 per apprentice, with a maximum of three grants offered per business.
  • The scheme is only open to individuals who live within Shepway, are out of full time education, over 16, and able to work in England. 
  • There will be no focus on a particular age group, but we are expecting the majority of apprentices to be aged 21 and below.

For more details contact Jeremy Whittaker on 01303 853375 or Email

Kent Apprenticeships is a joint partnership between Kent County Council, KATO (Kent Association of Training Organisations) and NAS (National Apprenticeship Service).  The scheme provides bespoke advice and support to help you find the right apprentice. 

For more details email or call 0800 098 8825.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) supports, funds and co-ordinates the delivery of apprenticeships throughout England.  The NAS website provides detailed information on the benefit of apprenticeships and has a support service for employers.

For more details call  08000 150 600 or visit the website.

Kent Woodland Employment Scheme (KWES)

KWES is a new charity set up to provide training and employment for ex-Service personnel, young people and ex-offenders in Kent’s ancient woodlands.

For more details call 01622 884258 or email

Monday, 24 September 2012

RHI Consultations - Part 2

In addition to the domestic RHI consultation two additional consultations were launched last week by DECC which  are of relevance to the biomass heating sector.

The first consultation looks at the expansion of the commercial scheme (or Phase I launched during November 2011) and includes direct air heaters, extension of biogas support and a new specific tariff for biomass CHP (closes on 7th December 2012).

The second consultation focuses on air to water heat pumps and energy from waste (closes on 18 October 2012).

Key proposals of relevance to the biomass sector include:

  • Introduction of a specific tariff for heat from biomass CHP of 4.1p/kWh 
  • Extension of biogas combustion tariffs to installations over 200kW 
  • Inclusion of biomass direct air heaters with a proposed tariff of 2.1p/kWh under 1MW and 1p/kWh over 1MW.  Three options for determining the RHI payment are also presented.  This could be of interest to operators of exhibition/event venues and warehouses/storage where conventional wet or underfloor heating is not feasible.
  • Increased range of waste feedstocks eligible for support (to be consistent with the Renewables Obligation) and continue to pay the biomass tariff for the biomass proportion of the waste. This will extend RHI support to commercial and industrial waste.
  • New requirements for energy efficiency for commercial and district heating schemes.  For district heating compliance with Green Deal 'green tick' measures should be required by only a majority of the premises on the heating network.  For commercial schemes the applicants will be able to choose from a range of alternative methods to demonstrate their energy efficiency (e.g. Energy Performance Certificates, Display Energy Certificates and the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).
Sliding scale for district heating energy efficiency

Examples of energy efficiency measures required for RHI compliance

There are also some RHI Calls for evidence. These include large biomass heat (not CHP, over 1MWth), biopropane and landfill gas (closes on 18th October). Interestingly the question around large biomass relates to the previous reduction in support from 2.7p/kWh to 1p/kWh and the impact this has had on projects (according to the document around 50% of the large biomass projects being considered were cancelled when the tariff was reduced).

Fuelwood Open Day

Pride in Place - Tackling Incivilities

Issues such as vandalism, graffiti, litter, broken glass, cat and dog mess, dumped cars and uneven pavements can have a major impact upon well-being and quality of life. 

These incivilities can impact upon the extent to which people can appreciate and enjoy their local environment and take part in activities within this environment. They can influence how people perceive their local area and their feelings of safety within their community. They can affect people's connection and attachment to the places where they live.

Our Pride in Place - Tackling Incivilities project showcases eight local examples of where communities have taken action to address these problems within their area, and brought about positive change for citizens. 

Research by the Carnegie UK Trust highlights the tremendous success that these community-led projects have had and calls for more to be made available to enable more communities to address the environmental problems affecting their neighbourhood.  This policy report makes recommendations to local government, environmental charities and funders.

The eight case studies featured in the research include Bredhurst Woodland Action Group:

Civic Pride (Lancashire)
Clean Glasgow (Glasgow)
Llwynhendy Growing Spaces (Llanelli)
Redruth Brewery Leats (Cornwall)
Springhill Garden of Reflection (Belfast)
Tipton Litter Watch (West Midlands)
Urban Eye (London)

Healing Landscapes: trees and society twenty-five years on from the Great Storm

One day conference hosted by the Department of Geographical and Life Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Saturday 20th October 2012, from 10.00 in the Powell Building.

October 2012 is the 25th anniversary of the ‘Great Storm’ that toppled some 15 million trees in southern and SE England. 

This one day conference uses the anniversary to celebrate the legacy of the storm and the importance of trees to society, especially their impact on education, community, health and well-being.

The conference also celebrates the planting of the Jubilee Orchard at the Canterbury campus as part Canterbury Christ Church University’s 50th Jubilee celebrations. 

The orchard is part of the ‘Bioversity’ initiative to foster the green spaces of St Augustine's Abbey as part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site. The orchard is registered as part of the national NHS Forest.

The conference is open to all students and staff and to members of the public and registration is FREE. 

We need to know numbers for refreshments, seating, etc., so you MUST register with the Department of Geographical and Life Sciences.

To register for the conference please ring Jaimie Morris or Maria Hamilton on 01227 782331/782337 or email


10.00 Welcome and introduction

Session 1: Healed landscapes? Twenty-five years since the Great Storm

10.15-10.45 Releasing history – the Great storm and the history revealed.  
Andrew Richardson, Finds Manager, Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

10.45-11.15 The Great Storm - tree and fungi responses to the hurricane 
Ted Green, Ancient Tree Forum

11.15 – 11.35 Refreshment Break

11.35 – 12.05 The Great Storm and UK woodlands

12.05 – 12.35 Windthrow trees, Nature’s survivors: East Kent case studies 

12.35 – 13.25 LUNCH

Session 2: Healing landscapes – trees, society and well-being

13.25 – 13.55 Forest schools – saving our children from nature-deficit disorder
Clair Hobson Earthcraftuk, Kent / Executive Board Member of the Forest School Association

13.55 – 14.25 A sense of place - community woodlands as local resources
Jenny Tippen, Chair of Ashford Community Woodland

14.25 – 14.45 Refreshment Break

14.45 – 15.15 The Woodland Trust – ‘Creating woodland together’
John Harvey, Woodland Trust, Kent

15.15 – 15.45 England’s Community Forests – involvement, inclusion, environmental regeneration and green infrastructure creation
Ann Bartleet, Chair of Thames Chase Trust, Community Forests

15.45 – 16.00 End of conference.