A WHISKY boss has shot back at accusations a famous Ross-shire distillery had acted “ridiculously” after it started building a new road without permission.
Glenmorangie Distillery was accused of riding roughshod over strict planning rules by irate Highland councillors after work began on a route designed for HGVs so visitor and access traffic can be separated.
But Glenmorangie’s engineering manager Charles McEwan has hit back at the criticism and insisted it had done nothing wrong.
A partly-retrospective application came before the local authority’s north planning committee on Tuesday and won approval but some members were unhappy at the company’s actions.
The council will now write to the multi-national demanding that it sharpens up its act in the future.
Tain Community Council had objected to the 200-metre road and warned it would make the access from the A9 into the distillery unsafe, but those fears were dismissed.
Councillors were told the trunk road agency Transport Scotland, which has responsibility for the A9, had not objected.
Tain and Easter Ross councillor Alasdair Rhind said he was proud to have a world-renowned name like Glenmorangie in the area but it was no excuse for ignoring the rules.
Councillor Rhind said he was supportive of its expansion and status as a key employer but demanded it liaise more closely with the authority in future.
“I am a bit disappointed at them as a company, the way they have disregarded the planning rules,” he said.
“I think a company such as Glenmorangie shouldn’t be showing a total disregard for planning legislation. It is disappointing that they started this road without planning permission.”
Councillor Rind said he was also annoyed the company had provided a “letter of comfort” stating its intentions at a recent community council meeting, as if it was the planning authority.
He added that he was content with improvements carried out to the junction several years ago.
Four new whisky maturation warehouses are currently under construction but councillors were told they would not generate extra traffic.
Dingwall councillor Margaret Paterson was also critical of Glenmorangie.
“Yes, Glenmorangie is a big success story,” she said. “People enjoy what they produce. I think a company of that size to go ahead without planning is a bit ridiculous.”
Mr McEwan said it was building the warehouses to meet the global demand for its whisky and defended its behaviour.
“Throughout the process we have worked with Highland Council to ensure that we have followed planning guidelines,” he said. “Within these guidelines it is permissible to construct a temporary road to allow construction traffic to access our warehouse construction site, ahead of full permission being granted for the secondary access road.
“This temporary road is necessary to divert all industrial traffic away from the main distillery and away from staff and visitor traffic. Planning permission was unanimously granted to build a permanent secondary access road within the distillery to address a number of access and safety issues at the site.”
He added it had shared its proposals with the community council as part of the planning process and would continue to speak with it, and the local authority in the future.