Industry experts set to speak at Northumberland forestry trade event

The Forestry and Firewood Fair, held at Meldon Park Estate near Morpeth has unveiled a programme of high calibre speakers

James Cookson of Meldon Park Estate
James Cookson of Meldon Park Estate

Industry experts will be gathering in Northumberland for the forestry and agricultural sectors’ major trade event, which is returning to the county for the first time in three years.

The Forestry and Firewood Fair, held at Meldon Park Estate near Morpeth on Saturday, September 27, has unveiled a programme of high calibre speakers who will be discussing key topics ranging from funding opportunities and land and tree management to the growing renewable heat and biomass sector.

The Forestry Commission’s Richard Pow will open the presentations with a talk for farmers on the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS), which is being introduced from January as part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.

Neil Harrison of Alnwick-based biomass boiler specialists and one of the event’s sponsors, re:heat, will then discuss the Wood Heating Association, launched to support the expanding wood heating market.

Andrew Howard of Pennine Biomass, meanwhile, will focus on the opportunities presented by the Biomass Suppliers List, created in April to provide a database of accredited sustainable suppliers, before forestry management comes under the spotlight with Alan Ockenden of the Forestry Commission highlighting the latest methods to control woodland pests and diseases.

Mr Pow will then return with Will Richardson of Rural Development Initiatives to look at the funding support available under the next round of the Rural Development Programme.

Andrew Kitching, project manager at Northwoods, which is organising the event in conjunction with Northumberland County Council and Meldon Park, said: “We are bringing together a diverse range of experts to discuss the most important issues that are currently affecting forestry owners and workers, farmers and contractors.

“The Forestry and Firewood Fair is widely recognised as the main industry event for the sector in the North of England, and we have selected speakers who can help farming and forestry professionals to grow their businesses and signpost the support available to them.

“Visitors who want to find out more about wood heating and the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) will also benefit from the talks.”

In addition to the presentations, practical demonstrations will be offered, including one of coppice working on James Cookson’s Meldon Park Estate and another showing horse-logging teams in action.

The fair, which is only the third of its kind to be held in the UK, is also bringing together a number of educational and commercial trade standards.

Mr Cookson said: “With both timber prices and the interest in woodfuel on the increase, we are now beginning to look at the estate’s woodlands as being more of a commercially viable asset.

“Support from Northwoods has enabled us to look at our woodlands and bring them into a programme of work, which means they will be more actively managed, resulting in an additional income for the estate whilst improving the timber quality for the future.”

In 2011, when the Forestry and Firewood Fair was last held in Northumberland, the event attracted 900 people from across the North East, North West and Yorkshire.

In the North East, the sector is responsible for generating more than £40m annually, providing jobs for more than 1,500 people.

Mr Kitching said: “Forestry is a vital industry in the North East and its importance is set to grow as increasing numbers of people switch to sustainable biomass heating and tap into the available Government incentives.”

The event is organised on a not-for-profit basis with support from Northumberland County Council’s Economic Regeneration department.

An entry fee of £2 per car will be charged.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer