Home Somerset business Award-winning Somerset gin distillery could be forced to close in a planning...

Award-winning Somerset gin distillery could be forced to close in a planning row

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An award-winning gin distillery needs retrospective clearance for the Chew Magna headquarters it has occupied for more than nine months.

Despite fears for drinkers next to a busy road, in April Chew Valley Distillery was granted an expanded license to sell alcohol to drink in or take out every day until 11:45 p.m., offering two tastings per week for up to 28 people and use the outdoor seats until 8 p.m.

The concerns of the villagers were once again expressed as the company applies for a building permit which it says it did not know it needed when it converted the Wellington Gallery, a former barber shop.

Read more: The little shop near Bath where you can make your own tasty gin

Opponents said the move “mocked” the planning system and the business would have a “massive” impact as drinkers poured in after the village pubs closed.

The town planning application, filed on behalf of Joe Kelly, whose family also runs the Lazy Lobster restaurant in the village, says: current use has been established.

“By making the change in 2020, they didn’t know that a building permit was needed.



Joe Kelly (left) and Jan Forster are the dream team behind Chew Valley Distillery

“The current use began operating in December 2020 and following a complaint filed with the board in April 2021, the Planning Enforcement Team investigated an alleged violation of the planning.”

The property now has a micro-distillery, a gin school, a bar that can accommodate 24 customers and a shop selling gins and craft beers.

The app says: “The use seems very appropriate for the Chew Magna center and helps to attract customers to the area.



Chew Valley Distillery was abandoned after no-shows and last-minute cancellations
Chew Valley Distillery was abandoned after no-shows and last-minute cancellations

“It has also enabled the applicant to establish a fairly unique business that capitalizes on the market interest in gin.

“As a local entrepreneur, he was able to grow his business and generate employment opportunities for others. “

Chew Magna Parish Council said he was in an “unpleasant” position as he could not comment before the business opened, and asked that the matter be referred to the Bath Council review committee and North East Somerset and Planning Inspectorate.

He then objected when plans were upgraded from a change in use to a full planning application and expressed concern for the “historically fragile environment”, warning that the nearby junction between Tunbridge Road and the B3130 was potentially dangerous.

“It is evident that the narrow, raised, unattended sidewalk just outside the entrance to the identified part of the building, including a ledge of steps up to the entrance, is hazardous to customers and the public alike. passage, “he said.

There were also objections from nine residents, many of whom also opposed the license application.

Kate Kew said it was not acceptable for the distillery to “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” when people’s quality of life is at stake, and it “mocks” the planning process.

“Allowing this to become a walk-in drinking establishment, serving all kinds of alcoholic beverages and being open until 11:45 pm every night will attract a lot more drinkers than the existing retail business,” she said. .

“Drinkers will be pouring in after all other establishments close and as a result it will have a much bigger and detrimental impact in the village than the hairdresser or the retail gin distillery.

“This massive impact will obviously be felt most by the immediate neighbors, of which we are a part, and many of whom have small children’s rooms directly across the street.”

Peter Kew was worried about further expansion, stating in his objection: “Without control, the Chew Valley Distillery will in no time become a monster within conservation limits. To approve this retrospective plan would be to approve the domination of the village by stealth.

“In the name of its reputation and to avoid setting a potentially devastating precedent, the planning control cannot allow approval of this plan. “

Others complained about noise, traffic and parking.



The license was granted at a meeting of the B & NES Council's licensing subcommittee on April 8.  Youtube.
The license was granted at a meeting of the B & NES Council’s licensing subcommittee on April 8. Youtube.

The license was granted in April despite warnings that providing alcohol alongside a narrow, busy road was “not a good mix”.

Speaking at the time, supporter Ben Brettell said the objections were “a classic case of ‘not in my backyard'”.

Legal Officer Shaine Lewis said at the meeting that there was no information linking incidents of nuisance or anti-social behavior to the premises and that there was no suggestion that the licensing would prove to be problematic.

The B & NES Council will decide the fate of the town planning file, reference 21/03766 / FUL.


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