Tuesday, 30 October 2012

CLA Woodfuel Event

Friday, 26 October 2012

Update on community energy and Green Deal

To be helpful we thought we'd end the week with a round up of some of the recent announcements on community energy and the Green Deal.

Whilst  these announcements are not about woodfuel or biomass heating they are related and it would be remiss of us not to mention them.  For example, insulating a building properly can help to reduce the size of biomass boiler required and in-turn the amount of woodfuel required.

Here are the headlines, more details below:

  • Green Deal Cashbacks – hundreds of pounds for those who subscribe to Green Deal early
  • Green Deal - assessments – bookings underway
  • Green Deal - advice line opens
  • Green Deal - “Quick Guides” published
  • Energy Bill Blitz - £40m competitions for local authorities
  • PlanLoCaL interactive pack for communities on Green Deal
  • Consultation on domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)  - open to 7 December 
  • Call for evidence on onshore wind and community benefit – open to 15 November

Green Deal Cashbacks
Cash back rates under the Green Deal
The Green Deal ‘Cashback’ Scheme is a first-come, first-served offer where householders can claim cash back from Government on energy saving improvements like insulation, front doors, windows and boilers. Packages could be worth over £1,000. It is available from 28 January 2013 for households in England and Wales and is a time limited offer. For cashback amounts see the DECC website.  Customers wanting to find out more about the Green Deal can call the Energy Saving Trust Advice Service on 0300 123 1234. 

Green Deal Assessments
Booking is underway for Green Deal assessments. Visit the website for further information for further information on assessments.  British Gas launched its Green Deal service this week.

Green Deal advice line opens:
Tel : 0300 123 1234.

Green Deal “Quick Guides” published:

Energy Bill Blitz – £40m competitions for local authorities:
The Government is putting local action at the heart of efforts to keep energy bills down and homes warm, with a £40 million competition aimed at driving local initiatives to boost energy efficiency, reduce fuel poverty and encourage collective switching and purchasing. Read the full press notice.

Centre for Sustainable Development – guide for communities on Green Deal 
PlanLoCaL (CSE) is preparing an interactive pack for communities on the delivery of the Green Deal - available from January 2013.  “Exploring Technologies” webpage also offers links to Plan LoCaL exercises to help community groups scope all their local potential resources of renewable energy.

Call for evidence on onshore wind and community benefit - closes 15 November

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Update from Forestry Commission: EWGS application process, Larch felling moratorium and ash dieback (Chalara)

New application process

The Forestry Commission (FC) has created an online facility which allows applicants to apply for EWGS, felling licences and to submit agent authority forms. As an alternative to our paper forms applicants can now complete and submit applications via our website, which will then be sent straight to our Area offices for processing. This can save time and money on needing to print and post forms and provides a one stop shop for those who wish to carry out their work online. 

Screenshot of new application gateway
For more information on our forms and how to sign up please visit the Webforms and Guidance page of our website. To help assist you with the application process we have also created an easy to use guide which can also be viewed here. Paper forms will continue to be available to applicants as well.

Interested in Woodfuel WIG, but concerned about getting a Management Plan (WPG)?

To access Woodfuel WIG applicants must have a current management plan. However, The FC recognises this might be a stumbling block to accessing Woodfuel WIG for some applicants. Therefore, if an applicant wishes to apply for Woodfuel WIG on part of their woodland, it is acceptable to produce a management plan specifically for the area included in the WWIG.

Applicants must be aware that whilst this is acceptable for Woodfuel WIG it is not acceptable for WPG and will therefore, not be eligible for funding under the terms of WPG. In order for a management plan to be funded through WPG it must cover the entire ownership within a landscape unit. This is deemed as meeting the ‘property’ requirements as per Operations Note 3.

Larch Felling Moratorium

As with previous years the FC is introducing a moratorium on the felling of larch during the winter
months due to Phytophthora infection. Full details are available in a revised Operations Note 23. This moratorium affects the felling of larch in zone 1 only. There have been recorded outbreaks of the Phytophthora pathogen in Zone 2, but these are isolated incidences mainly associated with previous rhododendron infection. The FC has decided therefore not to extend the ban on approving larch felling to Zone 2 for this winter. The FC will resume the processing of felling licenses containing larch during May 2013.

EWGS and RDPE Transition

The current RDPE programme (2007-2013) is drawing to a close and negotiations are under way with the EU, Defra and the delivery bodies (FC/NE/RPA) to plan the transition to the next programme. The FC objective, so far as is possible, is to allow existing commitments and ongoing applications to continue with minimum change. However the following issues are highlighted to allow applicants time to plan ahead. Please note these are based on the current situation and could change. Budget pressure across the RDPE programme as a whole may mean the FC has to cease accepting applications before 31st December 2013.

Ash foliage affected by Chalara
Chalara dieback of ash (caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea)

Letters have been sent to Forestry Commission customers whose trees or woodlands may be at risk, a copy of the letter and further information are available on the dedicated Chalara webpage.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ecosystem services from Environmental Stewardship that benefit agricultural production

Natural England has released a new report entitled "Ecosystem services from Environmental Stewardship that benefit agricultural production".  Given that trees and woodland form a key part of the agricultural landscape we've taken a quick look at the report to see what it says about them.

We've borrowed heavily from the report for this article - for the complete document click here.


This report reviews the ecosystem services provided by Environmental Stewardship (ES), the main agri-environmental scheme in England. It is concerned with those that are of benefit to agricultural (especially crop) production.

  • Ecosystem services can be described as the full range of benefits that people and societies obtain from biological systems, including provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services.
  • Key ecosystem services considered include soil formation, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, water regulation and purification, genetic resources, pest regulation and pollination.

Role of Environmental Stewardship in providing ecosystem services

Environmental Stewardship has the potential to enhance a range of ecosystem services of benefit to agricultural production, though relatively few options have been designed specifically with this purpose in mind. 

Farm woodland in the Sevenoaks area
ES options generally involve either taking land out of production or modifying the production system to enhance environmental benefits, thus reducing production. Indeed, payments to farmers for their participation in the scheme are calculated on the basis of 'profit foregone' as a result of taking up the options concerned. 

Although ES options may enhance overall primary production in some cases (e.g. of woodland or hedgerows), they do not generally increase agricultural production. However, they may help to reduce costs of production by reducing use of inputs such as diesel or fertiliser on less productive areas of land.

ES options involving trees, hedges, woodland, scrub and orchards
What do the results show?

The following sections summarise the role played by trees and woodland in providing ecosystem services in the context of ES and agriculture.

In-field trees
Hedgerow planting on farmland near Ightham
  • In-field trees can substantially contribute to carbon sequestration and soil formation by providing organic matter for decomposition.
  • The overall impact is likely to be small, although there should be some benefit overall at the national scale.
  • Ancient trees will not sequester carbon to the same extent as younger trees. However, this option will prevent the destruction of older trees and so limit the release of stored CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • For ancient trees on cultivated land, the 15m radius grass area around the base of the tree will provide some of the benefits of an in-field buffer.

Woodland edges
  • Woodland edges will provide a year-round cover of vegetation that can sequester carbon, contribute to soil organic matter accumulation and reduce water erosion.
  • Any reductions in wind erosion due to the woodland edge option are likely to be negligible compared to the protection afforded by the woodland itself.

Wood pasture and parkland
  • Wood pasture and parkland puts relatively little pressure on the land and so it is sustainable, assuming that it is managed appropriately.
  • There is a year-round cover of vegetation and the trees can sequester and store relatively large amounts of carbon.
  • Whilst there is no direct evidence from wood pastures, their potential for sequestration and/or contributions to soil fertility can be inferred from data relating to woodland.
  • Poulton et al (2003) quantified C and N content of soil in land that was arable for centuries until the late 1800‘s and has since reverted to woodland. The acidic site (mainly oak) gained 2.00 t C/ha/yr over the 118-year period (0.38 t in litter and soil to a depth of 69 cm, plus an estimated 1.62 t in trees and their roots); there were also gains of nitrogen.
  • Hughes-Clarke & Mason (1992) examined 35 field corner plantations adjacent to arable fields and noted a significant increase in total N and total C under the plantations compared to the arable land.

High forest near Sevenoaks
Trees can increase the rate of infiltration (Broadmead & Nisbet, 2004) which will assist in water regulation. Work in the Pontbren region in Wales has demonstrated that areas of sheep pasture planted with trees can increase the infiltration rate by up to 60 times after 6 years, although significant increases were observed after only two years (Carroll et al., 2004). 

Creation of wood pasture (HLS option HC14) will have the greatest benefit, but restoration and maintenance options (HC12 and 13) will also have benefits in terms of maintaining the ecosystem services provided by these habitats.

  • The role of woodlands in regulating water quantity will be the primary benefit to agricultural production, although the beneficiary may not be the farm implementing the option, but a farm downstream.
  • Managed woodland can be used for the production of wood as well as livestock.
  • Carbon sequestration in conifer and broadleaf woodland is estimated to be in the order of 11 t/ha/year.

  • The presence of a vegetative cover can assist in preventing soil erosion and creating a reservoir for beneficial soil biota.
  • Where it is used as a buffer, there will be some benefit to agricultural production due to reduced losses of soil and associated soil organic matter, and a reduced potential for runoff.

No Mans Orchard near Canterbury
  • These systems, like woodlands and wood pastures, put little pressure on soil resources and can contribute to soil formation and water regulation.
  • ES option HC21, creation of traditional orchards, will have major ecosystem services benefits if created from more intensively managed land, whilst options HC18, HC18 and HC20, will benefit agricultural production as the orchard will be maintained or restored so that fruit production continues, whilst also providing other ecosystem services.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Need an apprentice?

Did you know that there are several apprenticeship schemes operating in Kent at the moment?  Neither did we!  Following a chance conversation with someone from Shepway District Council, where an apprenticeship scheme has been launched, we thought we would provide a basic briefing about apprenticeships and provide links for further reading.

Time to investigate?

We all know what woodland management/forestry/arboriculture is a tough job and finding new entrants into the sector can be hard.  However, we do know that there are many people aged 16-24 who are interested in the environment, keen to work outdoors and who are not cut out for the academic life at university.

At the national level the recent report by the Independent Panel in Forestry calls for a "...revival of a woodland culture that appreciates how important trees are for people, for nature and the economy".  It also calls for an increase of woodland cover in England from 10% to 15% by 2060.

At the local level the markets for woodfuel of all types are starting to expand, not least due to the resurgence in the use of firewood and incentives such as the RHI.  In addition the Forestry Commission is working hard to identify non-managed woodland and is seeking new and innovative ways to motivate owners to manage them.

Given that there is now so much financial support for apprenticeships now is a also good time to investigate if you are considering expanding your business.

Please note that we have borrowed heavily from the National Apprenticeship Service for this article.  Their website is very useful and provides a lot more detail than is covered here.

What are apprenticeships?

They are work-based training programmes designed around the needs of employers, which lead to national recognised qualifications. You can use Apprenticeships to train both new and existing employees. Funding is available to train apprentices (more on this later...).

As apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, most of the training is ‘on the job’. The rest can be provided by a local college or by a specialist learning provider, or you could deliver everything yourself.  As the employer you must give your apprentices an induction into their role and provide on-the-job training. You are also responsible for paying your apprentices’ wages.

Employment must be for at least 30 hours per week. In some cases the number of hours can be lower but must be more than 16 hours per week.

Why take on an apprentice?
  • Over 80% of those employers who take on apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive.
  • 81% of consumers favour using a company which takes on apprentices.
  • The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £2.65 per hour. Many employers prefer to pay more however, and research shows that the average salary is approximately £170 per week.
  • Employers who take on a 16-18 year old apprentice only pay their salary. The Government funds their training.
  • There are more than 250 different types of Apprenticeships available offering over 1,400 job roles.
  • 92% of employers who employ apprentices believe that apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
  • 83% of employers who employ apprentices rely on their apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future.
  • One in five employers are hiring more apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate.

Apprenticeship funding is available from the National Apprenticeship Service. The size of the contribution varies depending on your sector and the age of the candidate. If the apprentice is aged 16–18 years old, you will receive 100% of the cost of the training; if they are 19-24 years old, you will receive up to 50%; if they are 25 years old or over you may only get a contribution depending on the sector and area in which you operate.

This is paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the apprenticeship; in most cases this will be a learning provider.

Which schemes are running?

We mentioned the Shepway scheme at the start of this article:
  • Grants of up to £1,500 to Shepway businesses to encourage them to employ local people as apprentices.
  • Any Shepway business can apply, although we have a focus on businesses with fewer than 10 employees. 
  • Applications will be considered on a case by case basis with appropriate checks made (e.g. with Companies House) to try to ensure that the apprenticeship is not ended prematurely due to company failure.
  • We offer grants of up to £1,500 per apprentice, with a maximum of three grants offered per business.
  • The scheme is only open to individuals who live within Shepway, are out of full time education, over 16, and able to work in England. 
  • There will be no focus on a particular age group, but we are expecting the majority of apprentices to be aged 21 and below.

For more details contact Jeremy Whittaker on 01303 853375 or Email jeremy.whittaker@shepway.gov.uk.

Kent Apprenticeships is a joint partnership between Kent County Council, KATO (Kent Association of Training Organisations) and NAS (National Apprenticeship Service).  The scheme provides bespoke advice and support to help you find the right apprentice. 

For more details email info@kentapprenticeships.com or call 0800 098 8825.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) supports, funds and co-ordinates the delivery of apprenticeships throughout England.  The NAS website provides detailed information on the benefit of apprenticeships and has a support service for employers.

For more details call  08000 150 600 or visit the website.

Kent Woodland Employment Scheme (KWES)

KWES is a new charity set up to provide training and employment for ex-Service personnel, young people and ex-offenders in Kent’s ancient woodlands.

For more details call 01622 884258 or email info@kwes.org.uk.