We attended a seminar on this grant last month, as we are considering possible applications for one of our own woods, and a private client. The scheme is intended to help bring unmanaged wood back into production, and grants are available for professional advice and major capital works that will help improve access and profitability. So it covers all timber, not just firewood. The scheme is funded through Europe, so the paperwork and procurement criteria are quite strict. Having said that, the people running the scheme for the Forestry Commission (NGage), know their stuff and try to be as pragmatic as possible.
The scheme runs until 2015, but closes for applications in October 2013, so if you are interested, then start thinking now. Any woodland that may qualify must be on Defra’s Rural land Register, and must have a Forestry Commission approved management plan in place as well. The theory being, the plan comes first and informs all the other works. But the good news is, you can get a grant for the plan as well!
The scheme funds professional help at a rate of 60% of a standard £50 an hour, in other words, £30 an hour. This can cover design, supervision of construction, measuring and marketing of timber and supervision of contractors. Capital works are also grant aided at 60%, but this is 60% of actual costs, and you will need three quotes for any work, to value for money. Once the capital works have been done, you will also have commitments to meet the harvesting schedule in your woodland management plan.
If you have a woodland with difficult access then this can be a great scheme for delivering improvements and increasing income. You will have to pay 40% of the capital works, so it’s only worth applying if you were considering the work anyway, and if there is a saleable product at the end of the works. However, the volumes requiring harvesting are modest: you need to harvest a minimum of one cubic metre for every £50 of grant aid received.
For small woods, we think that the three quotes may cause more work than grant income earned. So, for example, we installed the new track at Hillball with a local plant hire firm and no grant aid. However, the grant for professional management is generous (we charge less than £50 an hour!) For medium sized or large woods the three quotes rule will be less of a problem, and the scheme should prove attractive.
Further details are on the Forestry Commission web-site at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-8nqegx. If you think we may be able to help you with a grant application, or woodland management plan, please contact us.