Fears rising that plug is to be pulled on £100m whisky distillery planned near Jedburgh

Fears are rising that plans for a £100m whisky distillery near Jedburgh could be dead in the water.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 2:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 2:46 pm
Councillor Jim Brown at the old Jedforest Hotel site near Jedburgh.

It was back in 2013 that an ambitious project for a distillery on the site of the former Jedforest Hotel at Camptown was first disclosed by Jedburgh-based Mossburn Distillers, owned by the Dutch drinks firm Maurussia Beverages.

The aim was to embark on a staged development expected to grow over a 20-year period, starting with a small distillery on land to the east of the hotel with a 36-seat cafe and a range of office buildings.

That was to evolve into the construction, on the north of the site, of the main Mossburn distillery, capable of producing 25 million litres of spirit a year and featuring four copper distillation vessels, as well as 21 fermentation tanks.

The old Jedforest Hotel site near Jedburgh.

The project, originally costed at £40m, was expected to create 50 jobs, providing a huge economic boost for the region.

Excavation works for warehouses was due to begin next month, with construction of the first phase of the Cleithaugh site to be completed by autumn 2021.

It was set to be the second whisky plant opened in the Borders in three years following the completion of the Borders Distillery in Hawick last year.

Now those plans appear to have been mothballed, and possibly abandoned, despite an estimated £5.5m already having been spent on the project.

In what would be a body-blow to the town and the Borders, contractors have quit the site and a reliable source has told the Southern the development has been shelved.

Jedburgh councillor Jim Brown has described the apparent move as a “bombshell for the town”.

Mr Brown visited the site this week to witness the clearance operation now under way.

He expressed dismay at the apparent demise of the development, blaming uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union and a current trade dispute with the US.

Neither Mr Brown nor the Southern has yet been able to get a response from Mossburn Distillers or its Netherlands-based parent company.

He said: “No one seems to be able get hold of the company which is running the show, which doesn’t look very good either. If there was good news, they would have told us by now.

“It was the biggest thing that has happened in Jedburgh since the Mainetti factory opened up. It was on that scale – 50 employees – as well as the small and large distillery and a tourist centre and a bottling plant.

“There was a prospect of a bonded warehouse to hold the spirit for the prescribed time.

“This was massive, something that would have gone on for 100 years, but it would appear the plug has been pulled.”

Mr Brown is convinced uncertainty over Britain’s future relationship with Europe is responsible for the withdrawal.

He added: “This project is being handled by a major multinational European investment company and had promised a potential £50m investment in Jedburgh and the creation of 50 full-time jobs.

“The former hotel and its grounds were purchased and planning preliminary scoping works put in place before the Brexit referendum.

“Following local concerns over the delay in the demolition of a derelict filling station, I paid a visit to the site last week and was both shocked and disappointed to find the development team were closing down the site indefinitely.

“Its been estimated that current outlay on this project so far is around £5.5m.

“It appears that due to political uncertainty linked to Brexit and the danger of the UK leaving the single market and customs union, this project is to be abandoned.

“Add to this the 25% import tariffs recently imposed by Donald Trump on malt whisky and we can begin to understand why these blue-chip investors appear to be giving the Borders a wide berth.

“It’s a bombshell for the Borders and it could have been the start of something bigger.

“On the other hand, you can understand why a foreign company would be put off by the threat of a 25% tax on any trade.”

Mr Brown still hopes that something positive can be salvaged from the project, though, adding: “Looking to the future, there’s no doubt it is a big blow for the area, but, if nothing else, I’d at least hope that, with a bit of pressure, we can get the old filling station building knocked down as that’s been a promise for a long time and a real bone of contention with people in the Jed Valley. It’s an eyesore.”