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Plan to turn Crumlin Road Gaol into distillery gets go-ahead

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Part of the old prison’s vacant ‘A’ wing is to be turned into a tourist centre.

Part of the old prison’s vacant ‘A’ wing is to be turned into a tourist centre.

The Gate lodge of Crumlin Road Gaol. The decommissioned Victorian prison is a Grade A listed building (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Gate lodge of Crumlin Road Gaol. The decommissioned Victorian prison is a Grade A listed building (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

The plans are set to cost £15m.

The plans are set to cost £15m.

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Part of the old prison’s vacant ‘A’ wing is to be turned into a tourist centre.

A £15m plan to transform Belfast’s historic Crumlin Road Gaol into a whiskey distillery has been given the green light by Belfast City Council.

BCC's Planning Committee signed off on the application, which will also see part of the old prison's vacant 'A' wing turned into a tourist centre, on Tuesday night.

First proposed by lottery winner Peter Lavery more than a decade ago through his Belfast Distillery Company, the project was later taken over by a group of US investors, who are now the directors of the firm.

It was originally granted planning approval by BCC back in April 2013, although work on the site later stopped in July 2015.

Belfast Distillery Company's recent application was submitted following meetings with planning officials in 2019.

It will see internal and external demolitions and alterations to parts of the wing, with Belfast-based Like Architects behind the design.

The decommissioned Victorian prison is a Grade A listed building and was designed by Charles Lanyon, with construction taking place between 1840 and 1859.

It closed its doors for the final time in 1996.

One of the three other wings has been restored to its original Victorian state for use as a museum.

Back in 2019, a Freedom of Information request showed that Stormont had spent almost £90,000 on the site from 2012 to 2018.

According to report compiled by Belfast City Council's planners: "The proposal will bring back into use a grade A-listed building which will secure the future use, maintenance and the protection of the building for the intrinsic interest of tourists."

Earlier this month, Belfast man John Kelly, who has experience in a range of sales, marketing and general manager roles around the globe during his more than two decades with Diageo, was appointed chief executive of Belfast Distillery Company.

"My role, and that of the team at Belfast Distillery Company, will be to build a brand, a distillery and a visitor experience that all of Belfast can be proud of," he said upon his appointment.

He will oversee the company's expansion of its McConnell's Irish whiskey brand, which launched a year ago.

"The journey has already begun with McConnell's Irish whiskey now available in Ireland, key European markets and of course the all-important USA market.

"In the coming months we are determined to build strong relationships with distribution partners across Europe and other priority markets for premium Irish whiskey."

James Ameen, one of Belfast Distillery Company's directors, said: "Appointing John to this all-important role is a significant step for Belfast Distillery Company in what will be a big year for the firm.

"Our McConnell's Irish whiskey is already well-established in key local and export markets, and of course there is always room for growth.

"We have exciting plans for a whiskey distillery and visitor centre and we are delighted that John is now in place to lead our team and take those plans forward."


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