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CARVING A BETTER FUTURE

A FORESTER who put his business expansion plans on hold due to the harsh economic climate has reignited his desire to grow his company after pressing ahead with funding from One North East.

Due to the recession Richard Makepeace of Hexham, Northumberland, put part of his project on hold 18 months ago but in the wake of an extended heating season and the return to growth in the biomass market, has decided the time is right to complete his investment and business expansion plans.

Richard sought the help of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), managed by One North East and through the Northwoods RDPE BioeNErgy panel. He received funding to buy machinery to allow him to go ahead with his original plans and also create an additional full time job.

The funding will improve the efficiency of his business while enhancing the local wood fuel supply chain and help better control local under managed forests and woodlands.

Richard, 42, said: “Due to the economic climate over the last couple of years I felt uncomfortable pressing ahead with my plans to expand. Thankfully there has been a return to growth in the biomass market so this investment through RDPE will allow me to take advantage of the upturn by working more efficiently and also allow me to employ a full time member of staff. 

“Both of these factors will allow the business to be more productive allowing me to enhance the local wood fuel supply chain and bring local undermanaged forests and woodlands to an improved level of management.

“I have been in the agriculture and forestry industry for around 25 years with my business evolving over the years to meet demand.  It now focuses on contracts to undermanaged small woodlands, wood from which often supplies biomass markets and provides firewood. 

“The nature of my business means that I operate in small woodlands that are often not considered viable operations by larger forestry contractors, therefore making my business a niche market place.

“There are advantages of bringing small woodlands into management, many of which are considered to be public goods such as improved woodland habitats with associated positive impacts on biodiversity, aesthetic and access values.”

The use of biomass – solid plant or animal material – to generate heat and electricity is recognised by the Government as a technology which can deliver immediate carbon and cost savings for homes and businesses. The biomass sector is small but growing in North East England, with the potential to be contributing more than £75m a year to the regional economy by 2015.

Adrian Sherwood, RDPE Manager at One North East, said: “With new biomass markets opening, the industry is seeing a huge increase in the demand for timber products so Richard recognised the potential to expand and chose the right time to press ahead with his investment plans.

“It is crucial that we consider the importance of the biomass sector but as farms and forestry businesses in the region are often small or micro enterprises RDPE funding is essential to help companies invest in the training and equipment needed.”

Jill Platten, Project Officer at Rural Development Initiatives at Northwoods, which runs the biomass project, said: “This is an increasingly important sector, particularly for this region, so it is essential that we continue to work with vital projects like Richard’s to allow him to continue to grow his business to meet demand.”

This project is investing in facilities and systems for harvesting, processing, storage and distribution; work on biomass fuels such as those from forestry, forestry and timber co-products, and short rotation coppice; training for staff; and work to help more businesses meet industry quality standards.

The Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union, with the aim of delivering targeted support to rural businesses and communities. It is managed in North East England by One North East, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

The RDPE investment being managed by One North East combines larger projects to help many businesses in different sectors of the rural economy - including bioenergy and land-based skills, and projects adding value to agricultural and forestry products - with smaller investments to help individual businesses to start-up, grow or diversify, and support to develop more sustainable rural communities. 

RDPE Business Support is part of Solutions for Business, the Government’s package of publicly funded support products offering help to companies to start, grow and succeed. Solutions for Business makes it easier for companies to get the advice and assistance that they need.

10 March 2010

NORTHUMBERLAND ESTATE HELPS TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH ACCESS TO GRANTS

THE National Trust’s Wallington estate is stoking up its green credentials thanks to a series of investments to ensure the vast woodland helps to have a positive impact on climate change.

Wallington is a working agricultural estate near Morpeth with 14 farms and also boasts a mansion and gardens which attract 200,000 visitors each year, with two foresters managing the 800 acres of woodland.

To help it achieve its aims of reducing its impact on climate change, the Estate has accessed some key grants which are investing in the estate to together improve its business and environmental performance.

One North East’s Rural Development programme for England (RDPE) has approved two grants through the bioeNErgy support programme since it began in 2008, with the National Trust and Natural England among others investing in the estate.

Adrian Sherwood, RDPE Manager at One North East, said: “Wallington is an excellent example of a strategic and integrated approach to accessing relevant funding streams under the Rural Development Programme for England, ensuring improved business and environmental performance.”

The RDPE bioeNErgy panel approved a grant of £4,200 to pay for a woodchipper and trailer as part of operations to supply woodfuel to the biomass boiler at the Scots Gap regional office.  The biomass boiler has replaced the oil-fired heating for the office and will reduce CO2 emissions by 55 tonnes per year – a key element of Wallington’s Carbon Footprint project - which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from across the estate. Major contributions to the capital costs for the biomass system came from the National Trust’s energy partner, npower and the Big Lottery Fund.

The NEWHeat project – funded by One North East to provide impartial advice to businesses in order to promote viable wood heat projects in the North East - also provided a free feasibility study and grant towards the design work of the biomass system.

The second BioeNEergy grant of £3,932 was awarded to assist with the purchase of a Jappa Firewood processor and a Woodline log splitter, putting an end to staff producing logs by hand, therefore increasing production and allowing firewood to be sold locally.    The National Trust at Wallington has over 80 farm and cottage tenants who will benefit from access to a reliable source of dry logs.

Will Richardson, Project Officer of Rural Development Initiatives Ltd, said: “It is great to see firsthand how the various programmes available through the RDPE can complement each other and help benefit rural businesses in the North East.  Wallington Estate is an excellent example of this. 

“The RDPE bioeNErgy support programme is now available until March 2011.  To date over £750,000 has been allocated to 35 businesses throughout the region, which without this assistance would not have been unable to expand and diversify.”

The National Trust is committed to reducing its impact on climate change having embarked on a journey to reduce its carbon footprint through being more energy efficient, exploring the potential for renewable energy and conserving the carbon stored in soils and woodland. Wallington is leading the way for the Trust through its Carbon Footprint Project.

Celia Robbins, Project Manager at Wallington, said: "We are delighted that support from RDPE programmes has helped us take the first step to being self sufficient in energy. We have a wealth of natural resources at Wallington and now we have completed the circle of producing our own wood chip to heat our offices from sustainably managed woodland."

Wallington also benefits from the Forestry Commission’s England Woodland Grant Scheme funding for red squirrel conservation, as well as support for woodland replanting and woodland bird conservation.

EWGS grants give 80% funding to help owners manage Semi Natural Woodlands, remove conifers from Ancient Woodland Sites and thin woodlands to encourage an increase in woodland bird numbers.

The Forestry Commission will shortly publish the Implementation Plan for the England Woodfuel Strategy. This will outline the measures and further support that the Forestry Commission and other partners will give to woodland owners in order to bring to market an estimated 2 million tonnes of woodfuel from undermanaged and difficult to get to woodlands.

The Rural Development Programme for England 2007-2013 is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union, with the aim of delivering targeted support to rural businesses and communities. It is managed in North East England by One North East, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.

The RDPE investment being managed by One North East combines larger projects to help many businesses in different sectors of the rural economy - including bioenergy and land-based skills, and projects adding value to agricultural and forestry products - with smaller investments to help individual businesses to start-up, grow or diversify, and support to develop more sustainable rural communities. 

RDPE Business Support is part of Solutions for Business, the Government’s package of publicly funded support products offering help to companies to start, grow and succeed. Solutions for Business makes it easier for companies to get the advice and assistance that they need.

1 March 2010