'A major loss for the midlands': A €138m Westmeath whiskey project has been blocked

The local council refused permission over fears the development would ‘scar’ the landscape.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

A MAJOR WHISKEY project in the midlands has been refused planning permission over fears it would ‘scar’ the local landscape.

Westmeath County Council blocked Vault Whiskey Store’s planned €138 million whiskey maturation complex in Moyvore on the grounds that the development lacked “architectural merit” and would be at odds with the area’s “sensitive rural setting”.

Last summer, Vault Storage Ltd – which was co-founded by businessman Alan Wright – submitted a planning application to install 12 whiskey warehouses on a 100-acre site located 20 minutes from Mullingar.

The plan was to provide a facility where whiskey producers could store and mature their spirits in casks. The spirit needs to be stored and matured for a minimum of three years to qualify as Irish whiskey.

Each warehouse would have had a capacity of 12,500 casks, according to Vault Whiskey Store’s website. The project was slated for completion in early 2020.

Westmeath County Council said in its refusal that the site “would result in visual scarring of the rural landscape … and would seriously detract from the scenic amenities and setting of this rural landscape”.

Planners also rejected the project over concerns that its “visual dominance” would have an “overbearing impact” on a nearby house and diminish the property’s value.

‘Negative signal’

Vault Whiskey Store issued a statement through Twitter in which the company’s owners said they were “extremely surprised and disappointed at the decision by Westmeath County Council”.

The company previously stated that the whiskey complex would provide between 20 and 25 full-time jobs in addition to those facilitated by the construction process.

“We feel this decision gives out a negative signal for new business opportunities in this region,” it said.

“However, while this delays us in supporting the existing and new Irish whiskey ventures currently thriving in Ireland, we still believe this project is of national strategic interest and will be a major loss for the midlands region should it not go ahead.”

“Our focus now is the re-evaluate our options and take some time to explore our next move. We continue to believe in the necessity for such a development in Ireland and sincerely hope to publicise our new plans soon.”

Source: Irish Whiskey Assoc/Twitter

Vault Whiskey Store has the opportunity to appeal the council’s decision to An Bord Pleanála and said that it has received expressions of interest from planners in Longford.

However, Alan Wright told Fora the outfit hasn’t yet decided what to do next.

“The project isn’t dead yet, but things will evolve over the next few weeks. Of course we’re very much supporting the whiskey industry,” he said.

“This is all becoming very much a national debate. We need maturation for whiskey. It has to be done if we’re going to support the micro-distilleries in this country.”

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