Brewery near Crowborough makes case for fresh licensing bid

Councillors are considering a brewery’s bid to open a taproom at its rural premises outside Crowborough following a hearing this week. 

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 3:27 pm

On Tuesday (May 25), a Wealden District Council licensing panel met to consider an application from the Good Things Brewing Company to sell alcohol at its premises at Rendlye Farm, near Boarshead and Eridge.

The application is the second to come forward from the business, with a previous bid to secure a licence having been refused by another licensing panel in August due to concerns around its impact on neighbours, including the Bowles Rocks children’s outdoor activity centre.

While similar concerns had been raised to this application as well, the applicant argued that the move was “critical to the future of the business”, but could also be run without disturbance.

Felicity Tulloch, a solicitor acting on behalf of applicant Chris Drummond, said: “We make no bones about it; the impact of covid on the business has been catastrophic. 

“It has been the case across all of the hospitality industry as one of the first sectors to be affected when the pandemic began and one of the last to recover as things begin to ease now.

“With the closure of pubs for such a long period of time, Chris’s wholesale business was decimated. That’s why, notwithstanding the refusal of the licence application he made last autumn, we are back before you, because Chris has no alternative but to try and seek a licence again.”

The licence would allow the business to sell alcohol on and off site, seven days a week. However, under its terms the site would only be accessible to the public four days a week, Thursdays to Sundays. 

This would allow the brewery make online sales from its premises seven days a week as well as operate a taproom on certain days.

The latest opening would be on Friday and Saturday nights, when the taproom could stay open until 11pm and serve alcohol until 10.30pm. It would close at 8pm on Thursdays and 7pm on Sundays.

Ms Tulloch said these hours were modest and would not be akin to creating a pub on the site. She also pointed to a number of letters of support from local residents and said the business would accept conditions limiting numbers. 

The business would also prevent customers from eating or drinking outside and accept conditions on this , she added.

Ms Tulloch said: “The refusal of the application last year has diminished  the business that Chris is trying to create and he would like the opportunity to try and develop it, albeit in a very regulated and modest way.

“There is a huge amount of local support as I have said and very much two sides to this story. A great many people want to see this business thrive. This isn’t just about balancing business interests against local residents, but also all those added into the equation in support.

“The premises isn’t meant to be scary. It is supposed to be something nice, exciting for the community  and something we would hope Wealden would welcome within its boundaries.”

Neighbours felt differently, however, who argued the consumption of alcohol on the site would create disturbance, anti-social behaviour and public nuisance in a rural area.

Particular concern was raised by the Bowles Rocks Trust, a registered charity which operates a children’s outdoor activity centre immediately neighbouring the brewery site.

The charity argued any such facility in that location would raise safety concerns for its children and jeopardise its work.

Heather Oliver, a legal representative of the Bowles Rocks Trust, said: “We recognise the concessions and conditions that have been put forward and amended.

“But the position remains that there is, it seems to us, a fundamental incompatibility between what is proposed under this application and the protection of the work of the Bowles Trust.

“It is simply in my submission the wrong location given the proximity to Bowles and the wrong business plan. It would inevitably jeopardise the work Bowles is able to do and jeopardise the licensing objectives.”

The application was also opposed by Wealden District Council planners as the licence sought would go against the planning conditions imposed when the brewery operation was first approved.

As licensing and planning are separate systems the granting of a licence would not allow the business to circumvent these conditions. However, Mr Drummond is also seeking planning permission to alter or remove these conditions.

After hearing representations from all parties, the panel retired to consider its decision in private. 

The council is expected to publish the panel’s decision within five working days of the hearing.