Whisky facility worth £150m given council green light despite backlash

The facility would hold up to half a million barrels of spirits at any one time.

Whisky facility in East Ayrshire worth £150m given council green light despite backlash iStock

East Ayrshire councillors have given the go ahead to a £150m whisky maturation facility, despite vociferous opposition from people living and working near the site.

Beam-Suntory, the Japanese company which took over US whiskey giant Jim Beam and produces well known Scottish Whiskies, Laphroig and Ardmore sought approval for the facility.

It would hold up to half a million barrels of spirits at any one time.

Seven objectors were at East Ayrshire Council headquarters to make the case for refusing the application, focusing on the potential impact on the health and amenity of those living in the vicinity, and the environment, including the impact on the protected peatland.

Several questioned the assessment of the potential impact – particularly the issue of noise levels and of the risk around ethanol released through the barrels of whisky into the surrounding area.

However, planners pointed out that there had been no objections from the council’s environmental health team, SEPA, Ayrshire Roads Alliance or Naturescot.

Elliot Davis, who runs a hi-fi cabling company from the nearby B-Listed Kingswell Farm, claimed that he had correspondence between East Ayrshire Council’s environmental health service and the applicant, that a noise assessment would be undertaken at his property.

However, he said no such survey was carried out and claimed that the noise levels would lead to his business becoming unviable, given the property was where he evaluated audio quality of cables – something that would be impacted by noise.

Council officials did not refute the claim by Mr Davis, but suggested that they could not stipulate where a noise assessment would be carried out, simply telling the committee that the noise assessment provided was satisfactory.

The noise assessment report by Mabbett stated that they were “not able to access” Kingswell Farm and North Drumboy Farm for the assessment and that “proxy locations were identified which were considered to be representative of the baseline sound conditions”.

Mr Davis claimed the figures were much higher in the area surveyed, which would allow the site noise to be higher thanks to a higher baseline figure.

Other objectors talked about the potential for flooding in areas outwith the site itself, concerns about the potential for disruption of residents’ water supply and the potential hazard of “black mould”’ – a fungus that has been linked to the presence of ethanol.

However, officials said that they had looked and found little evidence that the mould was harmful, with both council planners and the applicant citing a Scottish Government report.

Another resident claimed that the borehole that provided water to his home was far closer to the planned facility than indicated in the report and demanded assurances about action in the event of loss of this water.

There were also concerns raised that the phased construction would see disruption for around a decade and that the area was a gateway to a popular visitor destination.

Despite these objections planners recommended the application be given the go ahead, with no objections coming from statutory consultees.

They said: “The proposed development would not have a significant adverse impact on the visual amenity of the area or on the residential amenity of receptors in the vicinity, will not give rise to an unacceptable traffic hazard and would not result in any unacceptable loss of or impact on ecological habitats or species.

“The proposed development is likely to give an economic boost to East Ayrshire through both the construction period and the operational period, as it will provide additional employment opportunity.”

Craig Martin, Beam-Suntory general manager of manufacturing operations for the UK and Ireland, said: “East Ayrshire Council’s decision to approve our proposals to develop a new maturation site near Kilmarnock is a significant milestone in Beam Suntory’s ambition to invest in the local region and Scotland more generally.

“We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with local community organisations in East Ayrshire, as we do across our wider Scotland operations.”

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