Ambitious plans to build a whisky distillery in Northumberland creating a raft of jobs have been submitted to planners.
Plans were unveiled in the summer to revitalise the former Redpath’s Yard in Wooler, transforming it into a top attraction, while also creating 50 jobs.
The multimillion-pound Ad Gefrin Distillery scheme is being spearheaded by the Ferguson family, owners of a number of firms including national haulage firm Fergusons.
The proposals have been devised to reinvigorate the local economy, help to retain young people in its workforce and regenerate a site which has lain empty for more than two decades, while also encouraging more people to visit the North Northumberland town.
To mark World Town Planning Day, the plans for Ad Gefrin Distillery have been submitted to Northumberland County Council for full planning permission.
The family has also revealed new images showing how the site and its buildings will look when completed, having hired Brinkburn architect Richard Elphick to create designs which draw heavily on the heritage of Glendale, on the history behind the name Ad Gefrin and on whisky production.
He has based the buildings on known details of the Anglo-Saxon palace, discovered below Yeavering Bell itself in the 1940s by aerial photography.
Mr Elphick, who has been involved in major restorations at Wallington Hall and Cragside, and develops his designs from hand sketching and watercolouring, said: “I believe the building will sit comfortably, with good manners, in the Wooler townscape, reinforcing a sense of place. The overall effect of all the buildings is intended to be rather like a planned ‘model farm’ which produces spirits.”
A huge number of documents including heritage statements, environmental studies and a bat survey have now been sent to the council’s planning committee, with the Ferguson family enlisting the help of Jon Tweddle, an Amble-based planning consultancy.
The application includes details on how they will protect the seven bats current roosting in the derelict building, and potentially make them stars of the completed distillery.
Chris Ferguson, who has spent more than a decade working in developing and creating major visitor experiences, will be developing the project along with his mother Eileen.
He said: “The seven bats will be rehomed in a temporary roost box and we plan to make a virtue of them in the distillery.
“On the top of the building we’re looking at making vents to create a bat roost and install cameras, to make them part of the attraction so visitors can get a better look at them.
“It’s just one of the things we’re exploring to make really interesting destination. It’s a distillery but we also want to include art, culture and local history and make it a great day out at a true destination.”
If planning is approved, the family is aiming for a summer 2020 opening, but there will be activities at the site from next year.
Mrs Ferguson said: “We are really thrilled with the plans which Richard has produced as they combine the Anglo-Saxon Hall of Ad Gefrin, and the wider historical landscape of Northumberland and Northumberland’s National Park.
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic venue and it’s going to be great for Wooler.
“As part of the public consultation we had the shop open for a week in Wooler and were at Glendale Show, and spoke to more than 1,900 people in all – and not one had any objections. We hope that’s indicative of what the rest of society wants.
“We’re very excited and if everyone else feels excited surely it will become a reality.”
Source : Chroniclelive