Approximately 20% of the Enterprise M3 area is woodland (87,000 hectares), making it one of the most heavily wooded LEP areas in the country. This resource is capable of producing between 250,000 m3 to 350,000 m3 of timber over the next 50 years, with at least 80% of output from conifer plantations. However, approximately 80% of the woodland (68,500 hectares) is currently under-utilised and therefore has the potential to produce an additional 500,000 m3 annually for each of the next 10 years.
With this in mind, Enterprise M3 secured £2 million from the Local Growth Fund to support the development of a woodfuel hub network across the Enterprise M3 area. This network will offer a point of sale for logs, chip construction timber, fencing or any combination of such.
It is estimated that this project, which is led by the Forestry Commission, will generate 105,000 MW heat, save 40,000 tonnes of CO2 if woodfuel substitutes for fossil fuels and support over 80 jobs (new and existing) within the woodfuel supply chain.
The hub network will also offer the chance to improve recycling of wood-waste and arboricultural arisings, helping reduce costs in the supply chain and ensure greater productivity per £ invested.
The local woodfuel hubs will also help in the diversification of agricultural holdings, especially those where there are already investments to heat large houses or agricultural buildings using woodfuel or in areas off the gas grid. In this way it will be possible to secure new use for redundant farm buildings, sustain agricultural labour over winter months when productivity falls and encourage adjacent farm holdings to substitute for oil, reduce their heating bills by as much as 50% and improve the overall viability of their agricultural enterprise.