A worker co-operative that has developed the first sustainable sawmill in the UK has expanded.
Towy Timber Co-operative creates sawn timber, fencing panels, sheds and garden furniture at its Llandeilo base in south Wales.
Last year it raised £60,000 through a loan stock issue to buy specialist forestry equipment and it has also used loans from the Industrial Common Ownership Fund plc and the Co-operative Loan Fund to purchase new machinery. With the increased capacity, it has now taken on three workers and has five full-time employee owners.
The worker co-operative also builds traditional timber framed buildings, including houses, workshops and barns and is developing a flat-pack timber frame building system.
It is the first sawmill to use solar energy, with a panel on the top of milling barn, and sawing machines that have been calibrated to have a high timber output to power input.
With a strong commitment to environmental responsibility, all timber is sourced as locally as possible from sustainable forests. A zero waste policy is in place, which sees all offcuts being used – even the sawdust is used by farmers.
As a worker co-op, it operates an equal pay structure from machine operatives through to management, as well as job rotation.
Co-operative member and founder Mark Chapman said: “All our members, from management to machine operatives receive the same wages. We recognise that our team members are our greatest resource and without each of them, our mission would be that much harder to achieve.”
Ian Taylor of Co-operative & Community Finance said: “Towy Timber appears to be going from strength to strength. They are extremely busy and have taken on three new people. They have also extended their space threefold. This is a great success story.”