Distillery expansion sparks fears that black fungus 'could cover homes'

Scottish Government overturns refusal by West Lothian Council to develop site adjacent to the Glen Turner distillery.

Distillery expansion sparks fears that black fungus ‘could cover homes’ LDRS

A huge extension at the Bathgate Glen Turner distillery has been given the go-ahead following an appeal to the Scottish Government, despite fears it could lead to black fungus covering homes. 

A reporter for the Division of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) overturned the refusal by West Lothian Council to build 21 maturation warehouses on an 11 acre site adjacent to its present plant facilities at Starlaw.

The decision prompted an angry response from communities surrounding the site and councillors, who are concerned about the potential environmental effects of the spread of black fungus that results from the maturation process – commonly known as the Angel’s Share.

Residents who voiced their objections at the planning hearing in August say their concerns have been ignored.

Damian Byrne, chair of Seafield Community Council said: “You feel as if the whole process is against you. With a greater than tenfold increase in operations, there is widespread concern that the existing problem of black fungus will spread towards our village.”

And in Eliburn, Livingston, downwind of the site of the development, Steve Egan, chair of the local community council, said: “There is a fair chance that the houses at Appleton Parkway and the newer houses at Houston Road will be impacted by this fungus. Why have an agreed local development plan and decisions like this ride roughshod over the interests of local people?”

That was echoed by Whitburn and Blackburn Labour councillor, Kirsteen Sullivan.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I was shocked to hear that the Glen Turner appeal was upheld by the Scottish Government reporter, overturning West Lothian Council’s decision to reject the application and indeed undermining local decision making and democracy.”

She added: “Villagers have expressed grave concerns about the risk of black fungus affecting their properties. If this expansion does proceed, I hope that Glen Turner takes this on board and offers to clean any properties in the village of Seafield that are affected by black fungus.” 

Byrne questioned whether the reporter had actually visited the area.

The reporter’s decision findings said: “When I inspected the locality, I made a point of looking for evidence of black fungus growth on trees, fences and buildings. I found nothing obvious, even immediately adjacent to the site.”

Byrne suggested the reporter had been shown recently cleaned areas. Egan also questioned the findings of the report.

He said: “The blight of black mould (baudoinia compniacensis) associated with alcohol storage is well documented. Within the Scottish Government Report it states (Para 41) that he sees no obvious evidence of ‘black mould’ but later on says it is only really bad within 100 metres. Further on in the report it states that the ‘Black Mould’ is known to travel as far as 1600 metres.” 

Conservative councillor for Livingston North, Alison Adamson, branded the decision “an ecological disaster in the making”.

She added: “Black mould fungus caused by ethanol emissions will also cover homes, signs, lamp posts, neighbouring business buildings and the crematorium that are downwind. It was absolutely dreadful for the Scottish Government reporter to ignore the evidence and concerns of people in West Lothian.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said that legal agreements still had to be signed between the council and developers for the distillery plans.

The spokesman added: “Independent reporters in both cases have indicated that they are minded to grant planning permission pending legal agreements being reached between the council and the applicants. 

“The reporters were required to consider the cases on the planning merits of the cases and in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations had indicated otherwise. 

“The reporters have taken full account of submissions made by all parties, including those from members of the local community.  As the cases are still live it would not be appropriate to comment on the merits of the proposals at this stage.”

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