Princetown whisky distillery plans given the go-ahead by Dartmoor National Park

By Jake Chown  
Thursday 13th April 2017 6:00 am
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PLANS for a whisky distillery in Princetown have been given the go-ahead by the Dartmoor National Park Authority.

The application by Princetown Distillers Ltd for the construction of a whisky distillery, visitor centre, small scale spirit storage, new road access and associated parking and demolition of two industrial units on land west of the public car park on Station Road, was approved by the authority’s development management committee at a meeting on Friday, subject to a number of conditions.

The application received mixed reactions during the consultation period with objections highlighting that there was already a distillery on Dartmoor, it was a major development outside the settlement boundary of Princetown, local businesses were being displaced, the café and conferencing would take trade from existing businesses and there could be a harmful impact on landscape, the environment, protected species and residential amenity as well as other concerns.

Those in support of the application highlighted that it was a positive development for the local economy, it would create jobs and enhance a run-down area and improve appearance.

A spokesperson for the Dartmoor National Park Authority said: ‘The development management committee has resolved to grant planning permission for the construction of a whisky distillery and associated visitor centre in Princetown. The permission is subject to the completion of a legal agreement to ensure the connection of the site with the permissive footpath/cycleway to the west and the public car park to the east.

‘While the site is adjacent to the conservation area, it would be in proximity to other industrial uses and flanking the public car park and close to the centre of the village.

‘The existing businesses within the Pressed Men building and former pocket power station will be relocated to new premises by the land owner. The significance of these un-designated heritage assets was assessed against policy and the planning merits of the scheme as a whole and members of the committee decided that, on balance, their loss is justified to enable a comprehensive redevelopment of the site.

‘The vision for Princetown within the development plan looks to enhance opportunities for business and commercial development, including tourist economy. Princetown has suffered with a number of business vacancies over recent years and the future of the prison is also unknown. The development would provide new jobs in an area which has suffered significant economic hardship.

‘This is a substantial development which will have an impact on the character and appearance of the western edge of the settlement, but one that will also have a positive economic benefit for Princetown and its tourism offer and is acceptable in all other planning respects.’

The demolition of the two historic buildings on the site — an electricity generating station designed in 1923 by architectural firm Richardson and Gill and the world’s first unmanned pocket power station dating to 1959 — was of great concern to the Dartmoor Society, which felt that the destruction in particular of the Richardson and Gill building would be a ‘very significant loss to the 20th century heritage of Princetown and Dartmoor’.

Chair of the society Dr Tom Greeves said: ‘Dr Ian Mortimer was very concerned about what has been an incremental loss of important historic buildings in Princetown. He suggested a deferment of the decision to allow time to amend the layout of the distillery. He was ably supported by David Lloyd, who argued that the decision to go ahead, without proper consideration of keeping the building, flew in the face of a primary purpose of national parks, which is to conserve and enhance the cultural heritage of the area. Once again the historic built environment of Princetown has been ignored by the national park authority. Future generations will undoubtedly regret the unnecessary loss of the structure.’

Dartmoor Forest Parish Council voted to support the scheme at an extraordinary public meeting to gain residents’ views on the application.

After the decision on Friday, co-chairs of the council Councillors Alison Green and Gregg Manning said: ‘The council supported the application due to the contribution to the local economy, including potential new jobs and investment, especially as HMP Dartmoor is expected to close in the near to medium term.

‘Also the promotion of tourism and the generation of more visitors to Princetown and the resultant increase in customers and turnover for other businesses located in the village.’

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