Wednesday, 1 February 2012

£40m for Expansion East Kent programme

In November 2011 Kent County Council received the green light from Government for its £40 million bid to drive new jobs and business growth in East Kent.  

This follows the announcement by the Government of £950 million to help create and safeguard more than 200,000 jobs across England through the Government's Regional Growth Fund.

The Regional Growth Fund – East Kent, which is to be known as ‘’Expansion East Kent’, has a target to generate 5,000 jobs via grant support for the expansion of both new and existing businesses.  This is in addition to the Enterprise Zone established at Discovery Park.

Given the large population in East Kent, and its relative remoteness to existing woodfuel supply chains, there may be an opportunity for existing biomass businesses to expand their operations into East Kent. 

There is already a lot of activity surrounding waste wood, largely as a result of the way that household waste contracts are evolving.  Recent application to demolish the redundant cooling towers at the former Richborough power station also suggests that plans for the Richborough Energy Park are gaining momentum.

The wood pellet supply chain in East Kent is probably the most poorly developed and this might benefit from new 'hubs' that established pellet suppliers can supply from. 

Given the cost of delivery of pellets its competitiveness against locally produced wood chip is questionable, particularly for small volumes.  However, the relatively sparse woodland cover, compared to that in the Downs and Weald areas, also means that delivered chip can also be relatively expensive.

Whether chip and pellet feature in any of the existing projects biomass projects in unclear, but with the opening of the Renewable Heat Incentive and the forthcoming Green Deal expansion of woodfuel supply chains in East Kent may be an opportunity for some, particularly if it is linked to other activities such as clean waste wood aggregation, arboriculture and woodland management.

Grants will be made available to all sizes of applicants from £25K for small businesses up to £2.5 million for businesses with over 250 employees: 

  • Springboard grants of up to £25,000 for start-ups and small businesses with less than 10 employees
  • Larger Grants for Investment and Growth, worth up to £2.5 million
  • Business Critical Infrastructure Grants, to support the delivery of infrastructure projects which will benefit a number of businesses such as High Speed rail line enhancement on the Ashford – Ramsgate route.

The fund will be administered by Locate in Kent and will be available from Spring 2012.  Full details and the application process are yet to be published.

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