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Wildlife, woodlands and the local economy are set to benefit from a new Kent based scheme that will help develop the market for locally produced woodfuel. The scheme, to be launched by the Forestry Commission and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on 25 March, will deliver a targeted package of support to the forestry and renewable energy sectors.
The aim is to establish markets for locally grown wood, which will bring local woods into management and provide new habitats for wildlife. The scheme, the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder, will also support the creation of ‘green’ jobs and new opportunities for people to get involved with their local woodlands through enterprise and conservation.
The scheme is targeting nearly a quarter of Kent, one of the most wooded landscapes in Britain. It is designed to support the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), an £860m scheme expected to increase investment in heat produced by renewable technology by £4.5 billion before 2020.
In the Kent Downs AONB if just half the estimated annual growth was harvested from the 15,000 hectares of woodland each year this would produce 40,000 tonnes of wood. This amount of woodfuel could heat the equivalent of around 5,000 homes and reduce carbon emissions by 8,000 tonnes each year.
The temporary open spaces created by the tree harvesting has also been proven to provide new habitat for rare and protected ground nesting birds as well as woodland butterflies that thrive on plants in warm and sunny areas of woodlands. As such the expanding woodfuel market also supports an opportunity to increase biodiversity in the Kent Downs AONB.
Kent’s woodlands can be used to provide a range of woodfuel products, from seasoned logs to wood chips, pellets and briquettes. This fuel can be used in a number of ways, from domestic stoves and biomass boilers, to large-scale community heating systems that can be designed to provide heat to an entire village.
Matthew Morris, woodfuel development coordinator at the Kent Downs AONB unit, said:
“We need to focus initially on increasing the supply of woodfuel from woodlands. Not only do we have the woodland capacity in Kent to take advantage of the enlarged market that will be created by the Renewable Heat Incentive, we can create opportunities for new jobs and provide better woodland habitats for wildlife to thrive. It’s a great opportunity.”
Woodland owners, farmers and land owners are vital to the scheme’s success as much of Kent’s woodland resource is in private ownership. Forest contractors and woodfuel heating engineers are also crucial as they will form part of the woodfuel supply chain that will meet demand created by the Renewable Heat Incentive.
The Pathfinder scheme brings a national focus on these opportunities in Kent and forms part of the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Task Force and builds on the experience gained under the Woodheat Solutions project. It is also part of an International project sharing experience with partners operating in a similar landscape in the Nord pas De Calais region of France as part of the EU funded MULTIFOR project
Other partners supporting the scheme include Kent County Council, eleven Kent local authorities and several environmental conservation organisations including the Kent Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust and Butterfly Conservation.
The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder launches on Friday 25 March at 11am at Torry Hill Farm, Sittingbourne, Kent. At 2pm there will be a tour around the bioenergy, fencing and forestry operations at the farm.
Notes to Editors
- Forestry Commission: The Forestry Commission 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. (see www.forestry.gov.uk).
- The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): The Kent Downs are the eastern half of the North Downs covering nearly a quarter of Kent, stretching from the White Cliffs at Dover up to the Surrey and London borders. It is a diverse and vibrant landscape with its dramatic chalk escarpments, secluded dry valleys, networks of tiny lanes and historic hedgerows, ancient woodlands, traditional orchards, locally distinctive villages, unique and precious wildlife and many sites of historic and cultural interest to explore. All these make up a landscape that is such a valuable national asset that it was nationally designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1968. The Kent Downs AONB Unit works in partnership with other organisations and local people. Our Management Plan sets out a vision and actions to conserve and enhance this special landscape (see www.kentdowns.org.uk).
- Kent County Council: KCC lead on Kent’s involvement in the MultiFor project and was successful at levering in funding from a range of partners including the Forestry Commission, Environment Agency and KCC itself. The MultiFor project in Kent is being delivered by the Kent Downs AONB Unit located at East Brabourne.
- MultiFor INTERREG IVA Project: An international collaboration between organisations involved in the forestry sector and protected landscapes. Funded by the INTERREG IV A 2 Seas European programme. The Kent Downs AONB is a partner in this project and is responsible for MultiFor projects in Kent (see http://www.multifor.eu/en/partners).
- Information on woodfuel:
Biomass Energy Centre: www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk Woodheat Solutions: www.woodheatsolutions.eu
Nick Johannsen, Director of Kent Downs AONB T. 01303 815170 E. email@example.com Matthew Morris, Woodfuel Development Coordinator at the Kent Downs AONB T. 01303 815170 E. firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Woodcock, Programmes Manager at the Forestry Commission T. 01483 326210 E. email@example.com Jo Spouncer, Press officer, Forestry Commission South East T. 01483 326265 M: 07828 762045 E. firstname.lastname@example.org