Plans for a £40m whisky distillery near Jedburgh are being recommended for approval in principle next week, paving the way for the creation of a tourist attraction expected to provide jobs for up to 50 people.
Three years since the ambitious proposal for the site around the former Jedforest Hotel at Camptown was first unveiled, Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee will decide on Monday if it should become a reality.
At the end of a 38-page evaluation of the bid for full planning consent submitted by Mossburn Distillers, planning officer Euan Calvert gives the project his endorsement, subject to compliance with a raft of conditions to address concerns over the environmental and ecological impact of the development.
“The proposed development represents a significant economic investment and has been revised and supplemented to demonstrate that any impacts on the natural and built environment can be satisfactorily mitigated,” concludes Mr Calvert.
His report to the committee reveals that the company, owned by Dutch drinks firm Marussia Beverages, wants to phase the development over the next five years.
If the application is approved, the first phase, to be carried out next year and into 2018, would see the creation of a small distillery on land to the east of the former hotel “to focus on small production and educating visitors in the craft of making spirit”, with guided tours provided.
There would also be a 36-seater café and a range of new office buildings.
The second phase, to be built between 2019 and 2021, would focus on land to the north of the site and will, states the report, be “significantly bigger and significantly more productive”.
It will involve the construction of the main Mossburn distillery, capable of producing 25 million litres of spirit a year and featuring four distinctive copper distillation vessels, as well as 21 fermentation tanks.
The manufacturing element of this building – 138m long and 12.5m high – would be combined with a visitor centre featuring a 260-cover ground-floor café, restaurant and entertainment area.
The facility will be serviced by an 81-space car park with access from a new bell-shaped junction on the A68.
On Monday, the committee will hear that the venture, expected to create between 40 and 50 jobs when up and running, has won the qualified support of three local community councils for its “employment tourism benefits”.
The report, however, reveals that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has maintained its objection to the bid, claiming the raising of land on a greenfield site to accommodate the new buildings poses a flood risk.
Two members of the public have also submitted objections, including Julia Wallace who, with husband Alexander, owns two hotels in Jedburgh, the Glenbank House and the Royal.
Dr Wallace claims the distillery plans would result in an overprovision of café and restaurant facilities to the detriment of food providers and other small business in Jedburgh.
“Distilleries have the opportunity to benefit from a global market,” she writes.
“In contrast, existing food-related businesses in Jedburgh can only operate locally and are highly dependent on the summer tourist trade to support their sustainability.”
If approved, the Camptown distillery would potentially be the second to open in the Borders within months as work is already under way on a £10m rival in Hawick’s Commercial Road.
The Three Stills Company development, called the Borders Distillery, is believed to be the region’s first distillery for almost two centuries, the last having closed in 1837.