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The Forestry Commission and the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership has announced that South Yorkshire has won up to £100,000 from a European Union fund to help local woodland owners tap into the growing market for woodfuel.
The region is one of the most forested in Yorkshire and the Humber, with 11,465 hectares (28,662 acres) of woodland.
Now private woodland owners are being targeted to bring more of their land into management to produce timber, possibly by joining together with other owners to create local supply clusters or co-operatives.
Rudie Humphrey, Woodfuel Co-ordinator with the Forestry Commission in Yorkshire and the Humber, said:
“We know that the take up of woodfuel boilers and installations is on the increase and South Yorkshire is a hotspot with all four local councils investing heavily in the green technology in preference to oil and gas for their buildings. We believe demand for woodfuel will surge 25% in the Yorkshire and the Humber over the next few years, yet well over half of South Yorkshire’s woods are under managed. There’s a major opportunity staring us in the face.”
The funding is spread over three years and has been won under an EU scheme called Activating private forest owners to increase forest fuel supply (AFO).
The UK is one of four countries awarded cash together with France, Slovenia and Latvia. The plan is to learn from the experience of Austria and Finland, which have been very successful in bringing private sector woods into management to supply their own green energy needs.
The Forestry Commission worked with the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership to push the case of South Yorkshire with EU chiefs because of the area’s strong tradition of using solid fuels like coal, meaning it has an infrastructure like bunkers that converts readily to woodfuel.
Woods are also plentiful – Sheffield is reckoned to be Britain’s most ‘wooded’ industrial city with trees covering 10.2% of its area. The similar figure for Barnsley is 7.4%, Doncaster 5.8% and 6.8% in Rotherham. The national average in England is 7%.
As part of the project woodlands owners and managers from South Yorkshire will be taken to meet their counterparts in Austria and Finland, who will make return visits to share knowledge. Workshops and seminars will also be held.
Rudie Humphrey added:
“The public sector can do only so much in meeting future woodfuel demands and we need private woodland owners to make their mark. But a lot of these woods are fragmented and small-scale so encouraging owners to work in unison makes common sense. There is a major business opportunity here to create jobs and wealth for South Yorkshire. Bringing woodland into management also helps wildlife by diversifying the habitat.”
The results of project will be disseminated across all EU states. The EU has a target of having 20% of Europe’s renewable energy production achieved through wood fuel combustion by 2020.
NOTE TO EDITOR
1. According to analysts, there has been a 35% increase in the use of log burning stoves in the year up to June 2009. The new school building programme is also playing a part, with the Government stipulating that 10% of classroom energy needs should come for renewable sources, with many fitting wood chip boilers.
2. Today (date ) the Forestry Commission has also launched two new guides to help woodland owners and potential users of woodfuel appliance branch out. The Yorkshire and Humber Woodfuel Directory 2010 is a “Yellow Pages” with an eco-slant, listing boiler suppliers and installers, along with local sources of sustainable timber and firewood.
3. The other - Biomass Funding Guide for Yorkshire and the Humber - explains what grants are available to help people turn to wood generated heat and light and for businesses to take advantage of new market opportunities. They can be downloaded free of charge at www.forestry.gov.uk/YorkshireandtheHumber
4. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.
5. Issued on behalf of the Forestry Commission by Richard Darn, COI.
Richard Darn on 0113 341 3178. Mobile: 0775 367 0038