Belfast Telegraph

Planners give Bushmills expansion green light despite local opposition

by Ryan McAleer

A bid by whiskey company Bushmills to significantly expand its operation on the north coast looks set to get the green light despite dozens of objections.

Planning officials at the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council have recommended that two applications relating to the Old Bushmills Distillery be approved in separate reports set to go before the planning committee on August 22.

The distillery, which has had a presence in the village since the 1600s, wants to build 29 new maturation warehouses on Haw Road, around 600 metres east of Bushmills.

Now part of Mexican drinks giant Jose Cuervo, the Old Bushmills Distillery Ltd has 106 staff and reported pre-tax profits of £7.1m in its latest results.

However, concerns over the potential environmental impact of the plan sparked opposition, with more than 100 objections lodged in respect of the two linked applications.

Community group Save Our Causeway Coast expressed concern over the use of "hazardous substances" on the site. Among those to write to planners to express the "serious issues" raised was TUV leader Jim Allister.

Planning officials have recommended granting both consent for the use of hazardous substances and full planning permission for the maturation facility, which, alongside the warehouses, will also see the construction of a fire water retention lagoon, a sprinkler pump house, tanks, landscaping and a new access road.

But the approval comes with a list of 29 conditions, including a requirement for the development to be phased to allow it to integrate into the countryside.

The Old Bushmills Distillery typically requires its whiskey to mature from between three and 50 years.

It currently requires storage for just over 81,000 barrels per year, around 16.3 million litres. It already has 20 warehouses on site, but the new development is being pursued not only to store its existing produce, but also barrels from a new distillery, which has already been granted outline planning permission. An application for full planning permission was filed last month.

Planners found that the additional 29 warehouses were reasonable, considering the business plan submitted.

"When considered in the context of the rate of expansion that Bushmills have undertaken from 2006, the proposed development and the phased manner of construction would appear to be consistent with their current rate of growth and future projections."

Ultimately approving the application, planners concluded that need had been demonstrated, adding that the project will make "a significant contribution" to the regional economy.

"Specifically, it has long-term sustainable economic benefits, has entailed an assessment of alternative sites and has considered environmental and transport impacts.

"The proposal will not result in unacceptable effects on visual amenity or residential amenity.

"An assessment has been made of environmental effects arising from the proposal, and these have been found acceptable."

The 67-page report will now go before the council's planning committee in two weeks, when councillors will decide whether or not to rubber-stamp that conclusion.

Belfast Telegraph

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