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Gloucestershire Business News

EXCLUSIVE: Cotswold brewery in 'drinking den' claims

When is a brewery also a bar? It's a question that's beset Stroud District Council after officers waded into a dispute in the village of Uley, near Dursley, over complaints that the village's celebrated pre-Victorian brewery was serving pints to "enthusiastic" customers without planning permission.

Uley Brewery began fermenting ales back in 1985 at the historical site and has become a celebrated national name in real ale culture. 

Founded in 1985 by Chas Wright, who died last year at the age of 74, Mr Wright's ambition to create award-winning beers has put Uley on the national drinks map, with high praise for the creation of such ales as Uley Bitter, Pigs Ear and Old Spot.But the business hit a planning road block last summer after neighbours claimed activity at the address was disrupting their lives.

Requesting anonymity, a villager who lives nearby told that a taproom had effectively been operating from the backstreet address.

They said: "Residents living close by said the brewery was selling ale on a retail basis and drinkers were getting a bit enthusiastic, consuming it on the premises - against the original permission for the business. They said it was a drinking den and that rowdy behaviour was a direct result of what was going on there."

Planning officers stepped in last year, pointing out that two conditions could be in breach of trading rules. As a result, the brewery would need to prove that any breach had been carrying on for more than a decade.

A report by planning officer Ceri Porter on the brewery said: "The [brewery's] application has been made on the basis to demonstrate that the business has been in breach of conditions C and D attached to planning permission 13092/C for a period in excess of 10 years."

Condition C stated that "no trade or business shall operate after 18.00 and before 08.00 (Mon-Fri), 08.00-12.00 (Sat) and nothing on Sundays or Bank Holidays," she explained, while "Condition d) says there shall be no retail sales from the site."

After an initial withdrawal of its application for lawful development last August, the brewery submitted a new application in the autumn through Cheltenham-based SF Planning.

Among documents filed, the (redacted) owner of the brewery said that the business employed several staff, including a head brewer, an assistant brewer, operations and sales managers, a drayman, numerous yard personnel (on a casual basis) and casually employed telephone sales personnel.

He said: "The Brewery is a Victorian Tower brewery built in 1833. The operations of the Brewery are unique insofar as the Brewery is one of the very few remaining operational breweries using traditional brewing techniques. This is very different to modern brewing methods and is not the most efficient, as it demands much more attention of the brewer who must be present throughout the brewing process. That is in part because the process does not rely on mechanisation, everything is done by hand, but also because the brewer needs to monitor the brew throughout."

SF Planning's file to support the bid included a long list of attestations from residents who said they'd bought beer direct, for their own consumption, for more than a decade.

The officer's report added: "Breaches of condition are lawful when they are immune from enforcement action and do not contravene any enforcement notice on the land. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no enforcement notice on the land.

"Time limits in which enforcement action must be taken are stipulated in section 171B of the Act. The time limit to be applied will depend on the development/ breach.In assessing this application, officers have applied a test of 10 years under section 171B(3) for the breach of conditions."

Yesterday (February 1st) SDC issued a certificate of lawfulness, acknowledging that any breaches of permission had been going on for more than ten years "on the balance of probabilities." has approached Uley Brewery with a request for comment.

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