Big Lottery Fund grants £1.2m to the Plunkett Foundation for woodland social enterprises

The money will be used to support enterprises in unmanaged woodland that could grow into sustainable businesses

Woodland enterprises supported
Woodland enterprises supported

The Big Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of almost £1.2m to the Plunkett Foundation for a pilot project that will help to create new social enterprises in unmanaged woodland.

The grant-maker said the funding would be used by the foundation, a charity that supports social enterprises in rural communities, to advise and support people in setting up new ventures in local woodlands that could grow into sustainable businesses.

The BLF said the scheme, called Making Local Woods Work, would provide training, volunteering and employment opportunities to 500 people and would support, advise and train 50 groups in the UK to establish woodland social enterprises.

The BLF said that figures from the Forestry Commission showed that 47 per cent of woodland was unmanaged or under-managed, which could threaten the variety of plant and animal life.

The funder said that management could help preserve and increase the biodiversity of these areas and increase wood fuel production.

It cited the examples of Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire, which provides training for young people who have been excluded from school or are unemployed, and the Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise in Argyll, which has provided the residents of an adjacent long-stay hospital with access to activities including arts and crafts, wildlife walks and training and employment opportunities.

Funding for the scheme, which will be run in conjunction with partners including the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission, has come as the result of an application made by the Plunkett Foundation under the BLF’s single awards scheme, which has since been discontinued, a BLF spokeswoman said.

Peter Ainsworth, chair of the BLF, said: "There aren’t many woodland social enterprises around yet, but where they do exist they have a great record of promoting skills and employability. It’s exciting to be able to support this initiative, which aims to improve the quality of life of those directly involved and also make woodlands more accessible and better looked after for the benefit of all."

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