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BrewDog slams ‘deluded’ council in distillery row

BrewDog has hit out at Aberdeenshire Council amid claims the authority is charging more than 60 times fair market value for the land on which the Scottish brewer wants to build a new distillery.

BrewDog says Aberdeenshire Council “refuses to sell the land at fair market value”

In 2016 BrewDog unveiled plans to make a “big impact” on the spirits industry with the construction of Lone Wolf Distillery on its Ellon-based site, along with a hotel, restaurant and conference centre.

In a blog post, the brewery threatened to pull on the plug on the project  – which would see £5 million invested into the local area and create more than 80 jobs – because Aberdeenshire Council “refuse to sell the land at fair market value”.

The land, which is 2.5 acres in size, was valued at £5,000 per acre on 12 May 2016 by surveyor DM Hall. After BrewDog submitted the plans, the local authority demanded £300,000 per acre.

The firm said it has “spoken with the council several times since”, adding that “they will not budge”.

A statement on BrewDog’s website reads: “This is a story we did not want to tell the world. But after well over a year of banging our heads against a brick wall with Aberdeenshire Council we feel we had no option but to let the public know what is happening.

“We are trying to grow our business and provide more local jobs and they are making this impossible. As a result it will cost Ellon employment, investment and facilities.

“The implications of Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to put their own interests over those of the people they supposedly serve will mean that regrettably we will now look to construct the distillery, hotel and restaurant somewhere else. We will look for land in a council area with a pro-business approach, rather than anti-investment and anti-job creation we find locally.”

In retaliation, the local authority claimed the land has been “earmarked” for a cemetery expansion, adding that BrewDog’s valuation is “more representative” of the price of agricultural land.

Chief executive Jim Savege labelled BrewDog’s public announcement as an attempt to “weaken the council’s position”.

“We are a proactive council with a commitment to working with local businesses,” said Savege. “We also have a responsibility to ensure best value for public money.

“There are ongoing protracted negotiations with BrewDog and this announcement appears to be intended to weaken the council’s position. We’re disappointed that the company has sought to break confidentiality during what we regarded as live and on-going discussions to achieve an agreement which is fair to both parties and which protects the interests of the local taxpayer, as well as creating opportunities for residents.

“At the heart of this issue is that the land BrewDog wants has been already earmarked for the expansion of the local cemetery. We cannot sell land vastly below market value – the figure BrewDog has been asked to meet is what the land is worth right now. Their suggested land value is more representative of agricultural value than a site which has permission for an alternative use.

“Assisting local businesses to expand is a key objective of Aberdeenshire CounciI. If BrewDog remains committed to taking forward this development, then we remain committed – as always – to do everything that reasonably can be done to help the company achieve its ambition.”

The distillery, previously named Granite City Craft Distillery, commenced production at the start of April under the guidance of head distiller Steven Kersley.

BrewDog unveiled the brand identity of Lone Wolf in May, emphasising its focus on “transparency”.

The company is currently building a brewery in Columbus, Ohio, where it said authorities had “not only fast-tracked our application and planning consents”, but “personally ensured nothing took more than a fortnight to get approved”.

BrewDog said that they had paid “much less for 52 acres in Columbus, Ohio, than our hometown council are charging us for 2.5 acres in Aberdeenshire”.

“We believe that given the climate in the North East of Scotland with many people losing their jobs, Aberdeenshire Council should be doing all they can to encourage employment and investment, not actively preventing it,” Brewdog added.

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