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Workers in Bridport to swap labour for wood
A NEW group is volunteering to look after woodlands in exchange for the right to use some of the wood for fuel.
Bridport Renewable Energy Group (BREG) is helping to set up a new wood fuel co-operative.
The idea is that volunteers manage the woodlands in return for ‘self-supply’ wood fuel.
The co-operative will be launched at Bridport Town Hall at 5.30pm on January 22.
BREG chairman Richard Toft said: “Members of the new co-operative will benefit from access to free or low cost wood fuel as well as learning new skills and helping to manage local woodlands in a sustainable way.
“We are delighted to have received support from Dorset AONB’s sustainable development fund to launch the co-op.”
BREG will get help from Dorset County Council’s ranger service.
West Dorset ranger Lawrence Weston said: “The service has extensive experience in the sustainable management of woodland, and can provide training and equipment as well as advise on health and safety issues.”
The service is negotiating with landowners to find suitable woodlands.
The new co-op will also work with rangers to explore the feasibility of delivering wood fuel to members’ homes.
Wessex Community Assets has also helped to set up the new not-for-profit social enterprise called Bridport Energy Services Ltd.
Wessex director Tim Crabtree said: “This new community co-operative will be the vehicle for organising the new wood fuel co-op, but it will also allow us to undertake a community share issue later in the year to purchase land.
“The aim is to identify suitable plots of land near Bridport that could be planted with new woodland as well as being used for food production.”
Funding has already been secured from the Big Lottery’s Communities Living Sustainably programme to support this land purchase initiative.
BREG has been exploring the links between food and fuel production for the last two years, initially focusing on the production of biogas from anaerobic digestion.
Mr Toft said the next phase would be to create a new land-based project where woodfuel production could be combined with food production and anaerobic digestion.
He added: “This will be a fascinating experiment, and could be linked to support for young people wanting to start up a farming enterprise.”