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Black Isle Brewery hopes to move to Inverness could attract 20,000 visitors

By Scott Maclennan

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An artist impression of the development.
An artist impression of the development.

Black Isle Brewery will learn if its significant bid to relocate both its operations and staff from its current base at Allangrange to Inverness is successful when Highland Council meets next week.

The plan is to establish a major new base that includes a brewery, visitor centre, shop, bar and restaurant on empty land at the Inverness Shopping Park, complementing its popular bar and hostel in the city centre.

Highland councillors are being recommended to give conditional approval when the south planning applications committee makes its decision next Wednesday, with a report stating it could attract around 20,000 visitors per year.

The move was prompted because the current site at Allangrange on the Black Isle “is at capacity with no scope for further growth or expansion” so the brewery will be relocated to Inverness.

No job losses are expected among the 15 employees who will move across the Kessock Bridge with the business while an additional 30 jobs will be created at the new premises.

If approved, the new base will be on an empty brownfield site sandwiched between the A96, Eastfield Way at the retail park and the rear of the Snow Goose and Holiday Inn which would be accessed via Highlander Way.

An artist impression of the development.
An artist impression of the development.

The proposal consists of the erection of a two-storey building of approximately 2750 sq m, an external decked area, courtyard garden, a service yard to the rear and car parking.

The main building will house a brewery and distillery for the manufacture, storage and distribution of beer and spirits as well as a shop, visitor centre, and a bar and restaurant.

In and around the grounds there will be additional access and car parking, office and education areas, a courtyard with a “rain garden” and outdoor events area as well as the landscaping, fencing and other works.

The construction is designed to reflect the agricultural origins of the business and the industrial process within while the “scale and mass of the building is broken up through the H-shaped footprint and variation in height.”

The current brewery is on a 130-acre organic farm, on which new ponds, wetlands and wildflower meadows have been created amongst thousands of newly planted native broadleaf trees.

The farm produces organic fruit and vegetables to supply the brewery’s two craft beer and woodfired pizza restaurants in Inverness and Fort William – and soon perhaps the new restaurant at the retail park.

Local schoolchildren and volunteers are regularly hosted on the brewery farm to encourage a greater understanding of natural ecosystems, wildlife-friendly food production and the benefits of time spent in nature.

If approved, the new facility would use design principles to reduce energy consumption, whilst deliberately retaining large areas of green space for fruit trees and wildflower meadows.

Council planning officials John Kelly and Jennifer Mair stated: "The site forms the last remaining development plot at the retail park and the proposal has been well designed in terms site layout, scale and massing, landscaping and use of materials, and is likely to be a significant tourist attraction

in the area with projected visitor numbers expected to be in the region of 20,000 per annum.

"The development, once complete, will enhance the biodiversity value of the site. This will be achieved through effective mitigation measures to take account of protected species, as well as landscaping improvements.

"Developer contributions will be secured towards the installation of a signalised crossing in the short term and for other local road and/or active travel improvement works in the longer term."

Organic brews- Black Isle Brewery managing director David Gladwin with the new cans of beer..Black Isle Brewery new stuff.Picture: SPP. Image No. 041086..
Organic brews- Black Isle Brewery managing director David Gladwin with the new cans of beer..Black Isle Brewery new stuff.Picture: SPP. Image No. 041086..

Speaking when the plans first emerged, the brewery's founder and managing director David Gladwin said: “The move to the new site feels like a natural progression for us – it allows us to continue to grow and to promote our nature-first, community-centred philosophy.

"Many people will question why we are moving away from a beautiful organic farm to a retail park on the outskirts of town, but it opens up some very exciting new possibilities for us, one of which is to work more closely with the University of the Highlands and Islands to facilitate a new brewing and distilling course.

“It takes the pressure off the farm and allows us to continue to turn it into a wildlife haven and educational centre for those that want to learn more about organics and working with nature.

"Many of the brewery’s followers know and love us for that approach, and we’re going to bring that philosophy right to the heart of what we’re doing at the new site – we want people to feel like they are getting a piece of Black Isle wilderness right on their doorstep.

“We believe the time is right to make what is a major investment in Inverness. Our new home will be a modern, efficient and striking addition to the city, offering a unique experience for locals and tourists alike and building on our 25-year track record of producing world-class organic beers.”

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