Plans by a brewery to open a substantial site in Abergavenny on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park have come as a surprise to local residents who are calling on people to object to the plans.

Drop Bear Beer company’s brewery application was reported in the Chronicle last week and announced via Facebook (Meta), however there has been outrage from local residents in response to the company’s application to site their first brewery on a farm site in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

In a statement issued by local residents of Llanwenarth they say the application refers to a “craft artisan brewery” but this is no micro-brewery: It is a substantial industrial unit.

‘‘The application is for a change of use from agricultural to general industrial B2 use, for industrial uses which would not be permitted in a residential area.

‘‘Such applications require very careful consideration and are predominantly located on industrial parks. On its website, the Australian-themed company boasts it sells from Canada to Australia and is stocked in the UK by TK Maxx, Ocado, Amazon and the Co-op. The company wants to help other fledgling drinks companies by offering contract production and packaging for other businesses.

‘‘There is dismay that there was no prior consultation with local people, who were shocked by the announcement and, apart from houses which would see passing vehicles, no neighbours were given notice of the proposals by BBNP.’’

Sarah Racz, who shares a boundary with the proposed site but was not notified by the BBNP says: “An industrial manufacturing site brings a huge array of negative externalities. In particular- noise 24/7, noxious smells, increased traffic, heavy vehicles, light pollution and a potential threat to the supply of water for the 20 plus properties which rely solely on the spring water which the company says it plans to use in their production process. The application simply does not respect the context of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

‘‘Permission for the site hasn’t been granted yet but it seems work has already started.

‘‘Hedgerows have been removed, trees felled, road widening has started and pipes laid. Block work has been laid in the open sided barn. Some of this work may relate to other applications by the landowner, habitats have been destroyed, which appears to conflict with the company ethos and values Drop Bear Beer Co. appears to promote.”

The residents’ statement goes on to say: ‘‘The application is claimed to be farm diversification, but until the recent innovative planting of orchards (as reported in the Abergavenny Chronicle) there has been little or no farming on the abandoned and derelict site for many years.

‘‘An application for permitted development has already allowed the unit to be grossly extended: it is felt the unit, which can be seen from miles around, scars the hillside and the landscape of the National Park has already been significantly degraded.

‘‘Some residents fear the damaging application is already a “done deal”: the application will be determined by the Brecon Beacons Planning Committee, but Paul Matthews, the chief executive officer of Monmouthshire County Council has publicly tweeted his support for the application: he sees the first carbon neutral alcohol free brewery as a “good fit” for the “food capital of Wales”.

The landowner, businessman Mat Feakins, is a former member of the Brecon Beacons National Parks Planning Committee and is the current chair of Monmouthshire County Council, representing the Monmouth Drybridge ward.

Whilst the application is for a brewery, it appears the National Park has no power to limit the use of the unit to that purpose: should the application be granted, the National Park would be giving permission for any B2 general industrial use in this very sensitive and visible site at the entrance to Abergavenny.

The application may be viewed on the Brecon Beacons National Parks Planning Application page by searching “Celliwig”.

Any objections must be submitted by 6th April, 2022.

In a statement released on Friday March 25, Drop Bear Beers Company strongly refuted all allegations made to the Abergavenny Chronicle.

In their statement, they said: “We have talked to and listened to the local community about our plans, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We have followed the correct legal process every step of the way, and as part of the planning process, there is a 28-day public consultation.

“For a number of reasons, we categorically deny that our application does not respect the context of the National Park.

“Our proposal is not to build a new structure but to sympathetically convert an existing farm building, and we believe any concerns about the visual appearance of the proposed brewery are subjective.

“We engaged a nationally recognised firm of landscape architects who undertook detailed landscape studies to ensure our design would have a limited impact on the protected landscape, and if anything, improve on it. In addition, the allegation that the company has started preparatory work ahead of the planning application is categorically incorrect and damaging to the due process of the planning application.

“The brewery would not be running 24/7; its operational hours would be limited to normal working hours (less than those of a standard working farm); the vehicle movement would be weekly, not daily. There is no intention or need to cause light pollution - we will be working with the National Park ecologist through the planning application process to ensure suitable conditions are in place.

“In terms of a perceived threat to people’s water supplies, this has already been discussed with local residents and has been detailed in the application, this claim is completely incorrect. We will not be looking to extract water, and there will not be any change in the natural water supplies to other properties as a result of our business.

“The proposed location of our brewery was once the home to a 18th Century cidery. Our plans to establish the world’s first carbon neutral alcohol-free brewery is testament to our respect for the site’s heritage as well as the natural beauty of this area.

“The preservation of the cultural heritage is key to this development, as is the enhanced biodiversity and substantial planting scheme. These meet the first statutory purpose of the National Park – to conserve and enhance its natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

“The National Park’s second statutory purpose – to promote opportunities for the enjoyment and understanding of its special qualities - will be met with local educational tours and the worldwide promotion of those qualities.”