Council gives lemons to Welsh gin makers’ distillery plans
Twm Owen Local Democracy Reporter
A craft spirit distillery that has been operating from two barns in the Monmouthshire countryside could be forced to relocate after losing a planning appeal.
Husband and wife duo Nina and Joe Howden have run Silver Circle – described as the most easterly distillery in Wales – since 2019 from the village of Catbrook near Trellech in the Wye Valley.
They produce Wye Valley Gin as well as other handmade spirts such as Black Garlic Vodka and Y Gwyllgi, in collaboration with The Dell Vineyard, which is described as a Pinot Noir Gin named after a Welsh mythical beast that appears at twilight.
The couple were given planning permission, by Monmouthshire County Council, in 2019 to use a modern agricultural barn as a micro distillery but have also used a second, larger barn on the same site, as a bottling plant and for storage, labelling and packaging.
Outdoor events, including a food festival, have also been held at the distillery and the council started enforcement action in December 2022 after rejecting a planning application, that July, which would have allowed the continued use of the larger barn as a bottling plant, and for tourist use and hardstanding for a parking area.
The enforcement notice required the use of the bottling plant to stop and for the hardstanding to be removed within three months and the ground returned to its former condition.
Appeals were made against both decisions which have now been considered by independent planning inspector Melissa Hall who has rejected both applications, other than saying the three month compliance period is too short.
In her report Ms Hall said the applicant’s had raised the prospect of them having to relocate their business if the appeal was unsuccessful and had asked for a period of 12 months to continue trading and a further three months to comply with the notice.
But Ms Hall said: “To extend the period of compliance would prolong the harm I have identified. However, I have also had regard to the difficulties associated with finding alternative premises, reestablishing the business and meeting its existing commitments together with the removal from the site of the material forming the hardstanding.”
She said the 15 month period sought by the applicants was “too long” and extended it to six months which “strikes the right balance between remedying the breach of planning control as soon as is reasonably possible and acknowledging the difficulties that the appellant is likely to encounter.”
Following the publication of the decision by Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) distillery boss Ms Howden said: “We are still looking at all the options and will obviously follow whatever we have to do.
“The business is doing well and as we can’t use the larger barn we will either have to relocate or find another storage solution.”
Ms Howden said there is still planning permission to hold indoor events but the appeal has ruled out further outdoor events.
In her report Ms Hall said street food events in August and July 2021 recorded 178 and 231 visitors but she said there was proposal for limiting numbers to around 50 attending at a time as the appeal stated.
The planning application had proposed a two metre high acoustic fence to limit noise from outdoor events but the planning inspector said the fence, as well as portable toilets and overspill parking area for events, would harm the appearance of the village within the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Concerns were also raised about visitiors walking to the distillery along the narrow country lane governed by the 60 mile per hour national speed limit.
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