Whiskey maturing facilites critical to expansion of sector – Creed

Facilities such as the proposed €138 million whiskey maturing complex in Westmeath – refused planning permission by the local authority – are critical to sustain the expansion of the sector, according to Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

This is particularly so for ’boutique’ producers for whom the investment required would be prohibitive, he added.

Alan Wright, joint CEO of Mullingar Writech Group, and one of two Mullingar businessmen behind the project, is hopeful that it will get the go-ahead from An Bord Pleanala.

“We feel our case is strong and hope the board see our project has a strong contribution to make to Food Wise 2025 and the Irish whiskey industry, and is of national strategic interest,” he said.

“We also believe the project would send a clear message that the midlands is a business destination for years to come, in line with the Government’s 2040 vision.

Vault Storage Ltd lodged an appeal after it was refused permission from Westmeath County Council on February 6, for 12 warehouses on a 100ac farm in Moyvore. A whiskey museum on site was also envisaged by the developers.

It was reported that Westmeath County Council was concerned about the size of the facility, and about its impact on the “sensitive rural setting”.

Minister Creed has written a letter in support of the project, stating that his department recognises the provision of facilities for the storage and maturation of whiskey as representing critical infrastructure, vital to the planned growth of the Irish whiskey industry.

He said it was the department’s position that more of these maturation sites would have to be built around the country, including in more rural areas, to meet the growing demand for Irish whiskey on a global scale.

Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy, who lives close to the proposed facility, said he had been extremely supportive of it from day one. Between 25 and 30 full-time jobs – as well as 80 to 100 in construction – would make a big difference in the rural area of Moyvore, which has just one shop and one pub, he said.

He said that the promoter would be favourably disposed towards employing local people, many of whom are leaving Moyvore on a daily basis for work.

“I understand that some people in the area had legitimate fears about the proposed project. However, having travelled to Cork where I visited a similar facility, and knocked on doors at random to speak to people in the vicinity, I was assured that it wasn’t having a negative impact on their lives,” said Deputy Troy.

A large proportion of people in Moyvore were in favour of the development and were disappointed when it didn’t get planning permission.

“While the county manager said he felt there was inadequate zoning, had he come to the elected members of the County Council, a material contravention would not have been problematic.”