A COMMUNITY woodland is set to be created in West Dorset thanks to a £25,000 grant.

The money comes from the Communities Living Sustainably (CLS) in Dorset organisation and will go towards paying someone for two years to set up the project.

Whichever group takes on the project will need access to woodland that can be leased for several years.

The woodland must be built in the CLS area which stretches from Charmouth to Bridport.

The £25,000 funding will last until April 2016 and is designed to get what is hoped will be a 10 to 15-year project up and running.

Dorset County Council renewable energy officer Pete West said: “The overall aim is to establish a community managed woodland project, for production of logs and timber, leisure, education and enhanced biodiversity.

“It is hoped it will bring increased awareness in the community of the potential of local woodland as a source of sustainably produced wood fuel, and an understanding that woodland can be both an amenity and a resource.”

Mr West said the woodland would be quite unique for Dorset and must be in the CSL area which stretches from Charmouth to Dorchester.

He said: “Instead of having woods owned by the Forestry Commission it would be local people who could lease woodland for a long period of time basically to supply logs.

“There are other examples nationally but this would be the first time in Dorset for a community managed woodland.”

He said finding the woodland would probably not be too difficult.

He said: “There is a lot of woodland that is unmanaged at the moment.

“One of the reasons it isn’t managed much at the moment is because it is too expensive to do on a commercial basis so it is trying to do find an opportunity that is not commercial but would be of real interest to community volunteers.”

He said biodiversity was another key aim.

“There is a lot of evidence that if you manAge woodland and let more light through you get more plants, more birds and insects and at the moment you get a lot of overgrown woodlands that don’t let the light through and you don’t get much biodiversity.”

The Dorset AONB has a complementary programme to train people in woodland management, said Mr West and the two schemes could be mutually beneficial.

Mr West said there was a meeting about the idea in Bridport 18 months ago and around 50 people turned up.

Part of the project will include training local people in woodland management skills, enabling them to plan and manage their own woodland and wood fuel projects. Applications from interested people and organisations need to be in by Wednesday, April 30 and should be sent to p.west@ dorsetcc.gov.uk Full details can be seen on the CLS website clsdorset.org.uk