Thanks for the link. It is good (I had read previously though).
I can get introductions to both John Gilliland and John Martin who grow willow commercially in north west and down respectively. there is also Steve who posted here on this site a few months back - i think he is connected with the permaculture 'Growing Connections' in ards/bangor and he also grows. So i think we would have no problems getting advice/pointers.
I had come across Steves site before, looks like he has a fantastic setup up there in the Mournes, i'd love to vist the place and check it out.
I think it has been discussed elsewhere on the forum, but I can't be bothered to look, how much land would we need if we were to take this forward, say starting with a greenfield site. What size of plot would be needed if someone like yourself wanted to produce enough fuel to fulfill all your needs. How many 'plots' do you think we would need to make the tree allotment project viable.
1 acre of willow SRC will do 11000kwh per year, which, whilst less than the heating load of the average house, will be more than enough for a well insulated home.
now this sounds like a lot of space, but the idea is not to produce all one's own heating fuel necessarily. Rather it is for education, learning skills, building community, to provide some of the fuel needed for heating one's home, and to have the potential to grow more if required.
to that end, we could start with something quite small, with plots of various sizes available. The smallest plots perhaps as small as 8'X4' would deliver very little fuel but would still allow a family to participate and learn.
I'm basically trying to get my head around the sort of size we would be looking for, just to put a few figures around it, mind you I don't even know what figures I'd be looking at just now.
I'm thinking that if we were setting this up and we had a total of say 20 people/families, then we would probably be looking at a space of about 10 acres or so. I had a look on Propertynews and as far as I can see in this sort of area most agricultural land is selling at about £10,000 per acre, except for a couple of huge farms where it drops to closer to £5000 an acre. If an acre of ground cost me £10,000 and saved me a years heating, I'm paying about £500+ a year on heat, then that would be a return of about 5%. Thats ignoring any setup cost and your labour and any other running costs, it also ignores any capital gains/losses.
On this sort of basis it dosn't really stack up, I know that people would still be interested for other reasons, but it would be good if it made financial sense too. Perhaps if we didn't use prime agricultural land, I'm sure lower quality land would be a lot cheaper, any idea if trees suitable for coppice would work in poorer quality land? I seem to remember that I have read somewhere that willow likes boggy ground.
jim, it's good you're considering this. i've been there and had some of the same concerns. this is where i'd got to:  the land required does not cost £10k per acre. It is poorer forestry land that is being considered here. Coilte were selling it for EUR5k per acre and the view was that this was above mkt price. More could be done with slightly better quality land, fruit trees, farm forest type stuff, etc  an acre will produce £1100 worth of fuel per year at 10p/kwh. granted mains gas and coal are cheaper than this at present, but within 2 years (estimated startup time) they will be no longer. Fuel prices, based on the current trend and rate of increase, will grow much faster going forward. like an insurance policy, you see no tangible benefits until the risk you are insuring against materialises! Think of this as part insurance!  The global market can only go one way and that is to shrink. this is because all the low hanging fruit of cheap energy is mainly picked already. yes, there are many resources left, but these are harder to extract. economies will have to localise, and land will be become much more expensive. this capital gain should really be factored into any RoI model but it is an unquantifiable at this stage.  I do not know how to value the community building and education aspects.
In conclusion, an accurate RoI model will be far from perfect as it is likely to underestimate the true value. it is misrepresentative.
think of it instead from say a family perspective. A very small plot for £30 one off cost, held by the family forever, to be passed down to children and their children. somewhere to go and learn woodland skills a few weekends a year. for larger plots, then there is potential to insure against rising energy costs, and help the environment too. there's far more than RoI to consider here.
You have made some good points there, I will have to have a think about them when I get a second. One thing that jumps to mind about the cost of the land; I had looked at property news to get that £10,000 figure; is the location of it. I had taken that number based on land currently for sale in the Belfast and Newtownabbey areas, but if you were to go farther afield you could certainly source cheaper land, however you then need to factor in the longer drives to get there. The forestry land probably is cheaper, but only if somone is selling it, mind you property news may not be the best place to find it
Had you considered how we, as a co-op or whatever, would fund this? If we were looking for 10 acres at £5000 each for a total of £50,000, this would be a substantial amount to raise, so unless everyone were to be in place before we started then it would be tough to get started. It would be hard enough with10 people at £5000 each but if you were to have 50 to 100 people at £80 to £500 each it would be a nightmare to organise. I'm not saying we couldn't, or shouldn't, do it that way it's just something we would need to sort out before starting.
Another point is expansion, if someone has a small plot and wants to expand, how will that work? Will we have extra unused land from the start or will we be building a market economy of our own, ie someone wants to sell a plot and two people want to buy it - bidding war?
To be honest the more I think of it the more silly little questions pop up, things that are probably straight forward and already answered somewhere.
please do start a coppice project FAQ. If you do not have the permissions to create new board i will do this for you, let me know.
i would be happy with renting off council initially and then looking to purchase later,depending on the level of interest. but if purchasing directly from the outset, perhaps we could tag onto the land purchase of a commercial grower, say gilliland or martin, or perhaps try and purchase next to an existing coppicer or permaculture group or allotment org?
i believe the key to funding is twofold:  offer a mix of plot sizes from the very small to something perhaps as large as 1/4 acre. There are potentially 1800 of 8'X4' plots in an acre which, at £30 a plot (to buy, forever), in theory generates £18k funding per acre. granted, there will be wastage dye to pathways etc. either way, a mix of large and small plot could easily generate funding of >£10k per acre, to cover land purchase and set up costs and perhaps an operating float.
And of course there's no way all interested parties will want such a small plot. The smallest plots are really almost token plots. Many folks will want larger plots, and plots will get much cheaper (per square yard) as they get bigger. what i love about the tiny plot option is that at £30 each they'd make a great gift idea for children etc. and one wouldn't think twice about buying a piece of land for such a paltry sum. a plot couldn't ever be sold, except perhaps in exceptional circumstances, and would be retained by the holder of the share forever. grandparents could use it as a memorial type gift, creating a family plot, with their urban beneficiaries becoming 'landowners' on a very small scale!
 some of the original founders would have to put up a few grand. they would get this back as plots were sold.
funds could be raised in advance of purchase and returned if the land purchase did not go through. it would all be done through a CIC which is an incorporated body and specifically not for profit.
nothing written in stone in the above, just some ideas i have had on funding!
This is what I mean when I say that the things I'm wondering about have probably been answered already. Mind you I don't know what a 'CIC' is, at least I didn't till I just did a Google on it. On a brief read through a Community Interest Company sounds the way forward, I have now added their website to my things to read www.bis.gov.uk/cicregulator/
I'm not sure about renting and then moving later, since planting for coppicing is a fairly long term project, I'd hate to lose all the work I had put in, unless you mean renting the likes of Hazelwood.
If someone 'bought' a 8' * 4' plot, for them to be the legal owner would it not have to be registered with the land registry etc possibly using a solicitor (expensive), or would it be done using a share in the CIC with a certificate showing ownership.
We would have to work out the budget for this pretty carefully, to keep it affordable but to not run out of money. On the subject of money I seem to remember reading on the DARDNI site about grants, wonder if there is any we could get?
Anyway I got to go now, I'll have a look at the FAQ in the morning.
land registry would have the CIC as the legal owner. the plot owner would own a share or shares in the CIC, and the CIC would issue the plot owner with a trust deed as well as a share cert. The plot owner would thereby have legal title to the allocated plot. The M&A would need to be fairly robust about all of this but it is all doable.
By temporary, yes, i mean somewhere like the hazelwood where the planting is already done.
if you know of any way to set up a conference call, we may be able to get half a dozen folks to join in an initial discussion on this over the christmas period. i know several who have expressed an interest, but organising face-to-face meetings is always too much effort.
jim, sorry. i clearly don't know the ins and outs of the administrator functionality. if you tell me the name of the board, i will set it up to prevent any further delay whilst i figure it out how the admin stuff works.
No problem, these things can have lots of complicated ways to do things, but from a quick look through the help files I think that to create boards you need to have administrator priviliges (it was a very quick look so that might be nonsense).
I'd say that we should keep it simple and use a board name like 'Coppice Project' or 'Tree allotment project', something like that, what do you think.