The bosses of a long-delayed whiskey distillery have reassured villagers the £8m business has a bright future and will make a huge boost to the local economy with production of millions of bottles a year due to start by next summer.

Villagers are anxious to learn about the future of the Princetown Whisky Distillery, which they are hoping will help sustain their future economy as doubts remain about the long-term future of employment at Dartmoor Prison and while at least one pub remains closed down.

There was majority support and high hopes from Princetown residents and councillors when the project was unveiled in 2017 for public consultation with Dartmoor Forest Parish Council voting to support, followed by Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) planners.

Distillery director Rowan Maule said villagers have every reason to be optimistic about the future and should be proud that they will be hosting the largest such distillery in England. He said the three largest steel stills in the country at 19,000 litres were due to be delivered and fitted yesterday (Wednesday), joining already fitted traditional 30,000-litre oak versions.

He said: ‘I can reassure the people of Princetown they have absolutely nothing to fear about the distillery not happening. This is an ambitious and fantastic building which houses what will be the biggest whiskey distillery of its kind in England, following the very best of Scots distilleries.

‘This is a very serious professional business that will make Princetown people proud to have it in their village, selling millions of bottles worldwide which will use the pure waters of Dartmoor to give it a unique quality. We appreciate people have been wondering what’s happening and perhaps we should be more open now with local people.’

He admitted the pandemic delayed the opening and work was progressing using small contractors to ensure quality: ‘Also, initially we won’t be selling our local whiskey because all that we make, starting from next year, needs to mature for three years as happens with the best of whiskies.’

Delays were also faced from gaining planning permission to site thir own LPG tanks to replace the village supply. Objections by the parish council included safety and visual affect. Dartmoor National Park Authority planners however, approved it. The distillery, originally costed at £4m, is based on a typical Scottish building design, has been erected, but fitting out inside to accommodate a visitor centre/cask warehouse exhibition area, public cafe and the main production area has not yet completed. He said the visitor centre will be developed on a separate timescale to the main buildings because of problems with existing power lines.