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Revaluing wood waste

The Tree Station is an Industrial and Provident Society (I&PS), based in West Gorton, which undertakes sustainable woodland management. The Tree Station works to reduce wood waste and to transform it into firewood, and woodchip for biomass boilers, local compositing and use on local allotments.

In doing this, Tree Station seeks to fuse environmental benefits, economic opportunities and cooperative social organisation. The environmental benefits are in contributing to the mitigation of climate change through the local production of firewood and woodchip for biomass boilers and also in terms of local woodland management. As an economic opportunity, this revalues local woodland and timber waste as fuel sources. Socially, the designation of the Tree Station as an I&PS means that community shareholders are members and any financial surplus generated is re-invested into Tree Station or other community projects.

Tree Station, although becoming an I&PS in 2012, has a history that stretches back to 2003. In 2003, Phil Benn a local tree surgeon, set up Ecos to work in the areas of sustainable treework and firewood. Between then and 2012 there were numerous changes to Ecos. This included it being established as the Greater Manchester Tree Station (GMTS Ltd) in 2008 as a Company Limited by Guarantee with not-for-profit social enterprise rules and in 2009 receiving £137,000 of UK government Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) funding.

Through 2010 and 2011 the Tree Station became located in West Gorton and, at the end of this period, Phil sold Ecos to Tree Station. It was in the period following this in 2012 that the Tree Station became a cooperative organisation, with a share issue raising approximately £140,000 and bringing in around 100 members. Phil remains Managing Director of Tree Station and works with Paul Hodgson as Principal Consultant, Patrick Morrello (formerly Browne) as Financial Director with Phil and Patrick sitting on the elected Board of Tree Station with four other volunteer directors.


An Alternative?


This member-based approach to sustainable woodland management is seen to be rather novel in the UK. Tree Station believe they are only the second member-owned sustainable woodland management organisation in the UK.

Tree Station undertake a range of activities - from tree surgery to selling wood fuels with the wood sourced from the routine maintenance of parks, gardens and woodlands in Greater Manchester. In addition to revenue streams from selling wood products and fuels, the generation of funds through the community share issue had the intention of increasing working capital, allowing the purchase of equipment and allowing Tree Station to tender for large biomass projects with local authorities.

At a national scale, in less direct and more general ways, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a policy measure to promote the uptake of new woodchip boilers. What this fusion of the local (Tree Station) and the national (RHI and the pressure for wood chip boilers) means is a more localised attempt to manage and shape the woodland systems that provide fuel for these boilers rather than encouraging the importation of distant sources of biomass that have been produced in less sustainable ways.


Update: July 2014


The TreeStation has recently launched a new share offer to raise funds for a 180Kw biomass boiler and a wood drying kiln.  For further information see

Patrick Morrello, Director, said:

"Here at TreeStation, we're totally committed to growing a sustainable business that maximises the uses of local resources. It seems obvious to us that locally sourced wood is better used for heating local homes that being turned into biomass and transported hundreds of miles to feed power stations. We're delighted that other like-minded people want to support us and hope this share offer will be as successful as the last"



This article has been written using publically available sources.
This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.