William Grant loses legal bid over wind farm build

20th April, 2018 by Nicola Carruthers

William Grant & Sons has failed to halt construction of a wind farm on the Glenfiddich estate in Moray, claiming it would “adversely affect” local tourism.

The Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown

The Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown

Scottish ministers granted permission for the construction of the 59-turbine Dorenell wind farm, near Dufftown, in 2011.

Moray Council were responsible for overseeing the legal enforcement of the planning agreement.

Independent spirits group William Grant & Sons (WGS) objected to the wind farm, on the grounds it would have a “detrimental impact” on the Speyside countryside and reduce visitor numbers.

The Dorenell project began works in August 2016 and provided access to the proposed location of the turbines by upgrading a road junction and existing forestry track.

The Glenfiddich maker claimed that the development was “unlawful” on the basis that the construction did not begin within the five-year time limit imposed upon the operators.

The case was taken to the Court of Session, where William Grant argued that the access works “did no more than break the ground” and were not part of the development as they were outside of the red line area on the site map.

However William Grant failed to bring the application within the three-month time limit required for judicial proceedings. The whisky producer served the petition on 8 June 2017.

In a written opinion Lord Woolman said: “Looking at the chronology, WGS must have contemplated proceedings on receipt of senior counsel’s opinion in September 2016. Litigation became an option when the council approved commencement the following month.

“The grounds of challenge clearly arose at midnight on 22 December 2016. Matters crystallised then. Accordingly, WGS should have raised this action within three months of that date.

“In any event, I would have refused to exercise my discretion to grant relief. WGS has not given a good reason for the delay in raising proceedings.”

Woolman said that over £100 million has been spent on the development so far and that halting the construction “would undermine the needs of good public administration” and “cause serious prejudice to the developer and third party contractors.”

Jim Grant, head of development services for Moray Council, said: “This confirms our position both in the judicial review and the remit of the public inquiry. It also highlights how important it is for our planning officers to carefully word all responses when dealing with applications; in this case the expertise of our officers was invaluable.”

The judge ruled in favour of Moray Council, refusing the orders sought by WGS in the petition.

William Grant & Sons refused to comment on the case when contacted by The Spirits Business.

The Scotch Whisky Association has predicted a strong year for whisky tourism in 2018, highlighting a 25% increase in visits to Scotch whisky distilleries since 2010.

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