Woodfuel East grants deadline

Applications for a slice of �1.2m of funding to stimulate the wood supply chain in eastern England must be submitted by the end of next next month.

Woodland managers, landowners, operators of wood fuel enterprises and forestry contractors have until November 30 to claim funding under the

Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

Woodfuel East, the initiative responsible for awarding and administering the grants, is effectively closing the doors to inquiries from November 30.

Applications or detailed 'concepts' outlining plans to improve woodland management or woodfuel supply must be submitted before the deadline.

Edwin van Ek, who manages the Woodfuel East project, said: 'There is great potential in the eastern region for landowners and managers to diversify into economically-viable woodfuel production and bring more neglected woodlands back into active management.

'The current round of the RDPE is scheduled to close by the end of 2013. Once all the WFE grant schemes have closed, there is likely to be a gap until 2015 before any similar new funding might come online and there are no guarantees that there will be any funding for the woodfuel supply chain.

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'It is very likely that future funding would be national, not specifically set aside for the forestry and woodfuel sectors and would come without the support that WFE is able to provide.

'We urge famers, landowners and forestry contractors to get in touch with us now so as not to miss out on money that could transform their business for the better,' he added.

By the end of August, WFE had committed �1.2 million to the region's farmers, estate owners, forestry contractors and woodfuel businesses keen to improve manage of woodland or expand wood fuel business. The initiative, supported by the Forestry Commission, covers Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

It has resulted in support for 69 projects, which has led to further investment of �1.9m in the woodfuel supply chain.

For new grant applicants, Woodfuel East's business advisers Phil Potter and Sid Cooper can guide applicants through the process.

Mr Cooper said: 'I meet many farmers and woodland owners who realise there may be money to unlock in their woodland holding, but who don't know how to get started. If this is you, I can pay a visit to your premises, discuss your ideas and then advise on the options and funding which may be open to you; before guiding you through the application process if you wish to go ahead.

'Be warned though - to beat the deadline for this last round of funding, we need to hear from you before the middle of November, a phone call is all it takes to get things started,' said Mr Cooper.

Grant support is available to help fund self supply to make use of the renewable heat incentive (RHI) or to supply round wood or woodfuel to others, including :

BLOB roads for the extraction of timber and thinnings from woodland;

BLOB hard standing for seasoning or curing timber;

BLOB construction of new, or the conversion of existing, buildings for storage of woodfuel;

BLOB purchase of equipment for the extraction or processing of wood for fuel

BLOB purchase of equipment for the delivery of woodfuel

The maximum grant rate offered will be 40pc of eligible project costs; except for infrastructure grants which can pay up to 60pc.

The latest round of funding for WFE grants closes on January 31 but outline applications must be submitted by November 30.

For details – Contact Woodfuel East on 01223 773072 or email: woodfueleast@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or visit www.woodfueleast.org.uk