The Minister for the Department for Food and Rural Affairs was in the county to praise companies boosting the rural economy and to launch a new project aimed at giving the partners of servicemen and women better job prospects.
Earlier this month he started his Rural Roadshow tour of the county at the Salisbury Plain garrison towns and villages of Ludgershall, Tidworth, Amesbury, Bulford and Durrington, to ask people the best ways of creating business opportunities in military communities.
He concluded his trip across the border from Berkshire, where he is MP for Newbury, by visiting two companies in the Marlborough area who both use innovative ideas to create energy.
Mr Benyon visited Great Bedwyn furniture makers Holgate and Pack, on the Brail Farm Business Park. It received a Defra grant of almost £19,000 to turn its waste wood into charcoal, which it sells for barbecues.
He then visited the Manton Estate where Rural Heat uses otherwise redundant barns to produce wood chippings as a biomass fuel for commercial users.
Dr John Gilliland, chairman of the parent company Rural Generation Ltd, and Rural Heat director James Miles-Hobbs showed the minister how wood from local renewable resources was turned into chips to power the biomass boilers that the company installs and maintains.
Dr Gilliland said: “What we really sell is the heat that the wood chips create; all the users have to do is turn up the heating.”
Mr Benyon also met David Hunt from Wessex Woodland Manage-ment, which harvests timber from sustainable plantations in Wilt-shire and uses a chipping machine to produce a granulated fuel.
Dr Gilliland said Rural Heat expected to produce 5,000 tonnes of wood chips a year from its Manton base soon for customers’ boilers.
Mr Benyon said Rural Heat was creating the sort of rural jobs that the Government was encouraging firms to do. He said: “We want to boost the rural economy and great schemes like this help an existing business to employ more people.”
The minister said Defra was pumping nearly £2 million into helping existing Wiltshire companies to grow and new businesses to become established to create more jobs.