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Works approved at Orkney whisky distillery – but with neighbours’ concerns taken into account

Highland Park has a planning application approved
To go with story by Andrew Stewart. Works at highland park are approved by the planning committee Picture shows; The public entrance to Highland Park Distillery in Kirkwall. Kirkwall, Orkney. Andrew Stewart/DCT Media Date; 20/04/2022

Plans to dig boreholes and install pipes at Highland Park Distillery were met with approval by Orkney council’s planning committee.

However, the committee heard from two nearby residents that drilling works, which have already taken place under previous plans, have been causing problems. These have already resulted in the council’s environmental health team being called in.

The hours that the work could be done on the project were changed by the committee after an objector called them “completely unacceptable”.

A planning application, viewed by the committee on Wednesday morning, asked for permission to build a water tank, two 50m-deep boreholes, and pipes to go along with them at the famous distillery, east of Kirkwall.

However, this was an amendment to a previous application that the committee had approved. The water tank has in fact already been built.

The issue was that the location of the boreholes in the first application turned out to be unsuitable.

New water tank and boreholes would contribute to production at Highland Park

So, an amended application had to come back to the committee.

The application was submitted by the Edrington Group, which owns Highland Park.

The water tank, boreholes and piping will contribute to cooling and production at the distillery.

However, there has been resistance to the new application and two objectors spoke at the meeting.

The first was Christine Groundwater – a neighbour to the site where the work would take place.

She told the committee that her sitting-room window looked right onto the site works and there was no privacy.

She also said the noise and vibration caused by the work had kept her awake.

The second objector, Anthony Hodgeson, runs the nearby Highland Park House, an accommodation business.

He said there had been “no real consultation” ahead of the original works. There had been a “strange interpretation of the planning rules”, he said. This had caused him “worry and concern.”

Objector ‘astonished’ at situation

He asked for a guarantee that there would be “genuine recourse” if there is to be continuing noise from the drilling work.

He added: “We had heavy drilling going on on Sunday mornings. How was that ever allowed to get past planning in the first place? Why were restrictions not put on that before it got to that point?

“Instead we had to make representations to the environmental health people who, to be fair, did step in and impose limits on the operation. I was astonished that it was allowed to get that far.”

Mr Hodgeson said, if the drilling had gone on during the summer, it would have been “disastrous” for his business.

He said they had been closed for the winter but are now open again, so continued work was worrying.

He said: “We want to know that drilling operations will be restricted to reasonable hours. So, not at weekends, not after 5pm, not before 9am. Because that could actually put us out of business.”

Objector says proposed hours of work would be ‘disastrous’ for his business

However, committee chairman Rob Crichton explained that the draft planning conditions would allow work to go on from 7.30am until 6pm through the week. It could also be done from 8am to 1pm on Saturday.

Mr Hodgeson replied, saying this was “completely unacceptable”.

He said: “You need to take on board the amount of serious disruption, less to us but to our neighbours at [the address of Mrs Groundwater]. We’re not talking about a little bit of construction, we’re talking about heavy drilling that went on for months.”

While the application did get the thumbs-up from the committee the condition concerning the work hours was changed.

The work would now only be able to be done at Highland Park between 9am to 5pm on weekdays and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

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