Battle lines drawn for new brewery application

IN July 2019 Oldham Council refused a retrospective planning application from Donkeystone Brewery in Greenfield for a change of use “of industrial floorspace to use as a drinking establishment (brewery tap)”.Reasons stated for the rejection were: “The cumulative impact of noise, disturbance and related activities that would result because of the change of use would be harmful to the living conditions of existing residents.”

It was also stated the proposed development at Boarshurst Business Park off Boarshurst Lane would not improve “the economic, social and environmental conditions of the area and therefore does not comprise sustainable development.”

Planning chair Barbara Brownridge confirmed refusal but said the decision was “on the ‘clear understanding’ that the brewery could come back with a scheme to address to the noise issues which would address the committee’s concerns.”

A revised application was duly received and validated by Oldham Council on October 3.

Last month Saddleworth Parish Council’s planning committee, which previously voted in favour of Donkeystone’s plan, recommended refusal for the new application.

Both sides of the argument are now preparing their respective cases in readiness for a new hearing before Oldham Council’s planning committee.

No date has officially been set, with the next official planning meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 18.

To view all documents relating to the case visit Oldham Council’s website and search PA-343995-19.

The Independent asked both sides to set out their cases:

The case for …

Statement from Donkeystone Brewery
We were shocked by the refusal of our previous planning application back in July, despite being approved by every council department as well as Saddleworth Parish Council.

Following the decision we listened to the concerns that had been raised by some of our neighbours about their loss of amenity and have now submitted a materially different planning application which addresses their concerns.

This new application has significantly reduced opening hours, conditions restricting us from being able to have any live or amplified music and no eating or drinking allowed outside the premises.

Despite this the objectors have strengthened their resolve to fight against us and have spent tens of thousands of pounds employing planning consultants, acoustic consultants and even enlisted one of the UK’s largest legal firms to fight us.It has been very hard for us as a young fledgling local business to compete with this and it has seriously effected our business.

Since our last planning application was rejected we have had to make four local people unemployed and the loss of our main sales tool has really effected our continued growth which could further threaten jobs.

Donkeystone Brewing Co was started back in 2017 by four local guys with the idea of creating a great local business for the local community to enjoy and be proud of.

Since starting the business we worked very hard and managed to build a business that grew and created local jobs for the local area.

This surely is the point of a business park situated within a Saddleworth Employment Zone.

The objectors don’t seem to understand the fact that the brewery tap is a very vital tool for all modern day breweries.

It is our most powerful selling tool as it allows us to showcase our range of ales in the best possible conditions.

It is a very competitive market out there and for a pub landlord to have a couple of his regulars speak to them in glowing terms about their visit to our brewery is a very powerful selling tool for us.

We received on average five to six calls a month from new customers asking for more information from us following such situations whilst the tap room was open.

These customers have all now become regular customers.

Unfortunately, we have been targeted by a few very wealthy, well connected and positioned individuals who have a personal grudge against us.

It is a real shame that in this day and age such class differences exist where a few people of high standing can control the day to day operations of small businesses who are trying to thrive and survive.

We ask that all of you out there who are behind us to please take a moment to send a comment of support for our application.

Also if you are available to come along to the planning meeting please do as your support could be crucial in saving a local business.

The case against …

A statement from local residents opposed to planning application
Donkeystone’s new application is not materially different to the previous one rejected by Oldham Council’s Planning Committee in July and therefore the same problems persist.

Saddleworth Parish Council has recommended refusal on the grounds that “The proposal would result in a loss of amenity due to the impact of noise, disturbance and other related activities harmful to the living conditions of existing residents.”

This new application proposes conditions to “control” noise inside and outside, but in reality the conditions are unenforceable.

The new application makes no attempt whatsoever to sound insulate Donkeystone’s light industrial units.All they are offering are the same assurances regarding noise and outside use as they did in 2017.
Oldham Council demanded a retrospective application in January this year.

The so-called “taster” bar had become a public bar selling other manufacturers’ drinks. It hosted live music events, was hired out for private parties and provided a beer garden, despite the Council refusing Donkeystone’s request for a beer garden in 2017.

Nothing new has been put forward in the new application to address the issues which have resulted in numerous complaints of noise, and anti-social behaviour.

Residents believe over time the owners will look to extend hours beyond 10.30pm (their 2017 alcohol licence application and their previous planning application asked to trade seven days a week to 1am and 11.30pm respectively).

For over 20 years Oldham Council has applied strict planning conditions to all businesses on Boarshurst, which limit operating hours and noise.

All previous planning permissions have required businesses to close at 6pm on weekdays, at 6pm latest on Saturday (others at 1pm), and not open at all on Sundays or Bank Holidays.

Each time Oldham Council have given the same reason – to protect the amenity of residents.

Oldham Council’s records show the vast majority of Donkeystone’s supporters don’t even live in Greenfield, let alone near the Business Park.

The opposite is true of the 70 or so residents strongly opposed to the application – the vast majority do live in Greenfield and most live close to the Business Park.

They are directly affected by the disturbance it creates. This is a local issue affecting local people.

Residents have no objection whatsoever to Donkeystone operating their brewery, nor to the operation of a small “taster” bar during normal business hours on Boarshurst, but unfortunately this isn’t all Donkeystone want to do.

Given past experience, residents remain concerned that its owners still want to run a late-night public bar and music/events venue (the new application doesn’t prevent non amplified music or entertainment, for example).

The key issue is the proposed change of use is incompatible with the proper use of this light industrial estate, where all other businesses have operated for decades in harmony with the peaceful residential surroundings. Boarshurst Business Park is a reasonable site for a brewery, but a wholly inappropriate site for a public bar.

24 Replies to “Battle lines drawn for new brewery application”

  1. I think it’s really selfish of Donkeystone to open a drinking establishment on an industrial estate in the middle of a quiet residential area, and then play the victim card when people complain. It’s typical Generation Y / Millennial behaviour – feeling you have a right to do something and sod everyone else. Having online support of other like-minded individuals doesn’t make it right. What sort of serious company launches fund-rainsing appeals to help them with legal bills to fight a campaign to be somewhere they shouldn’t be? Just shut the building and open it somewhere where it doesn’t upset local residents. How hard can it be?

    Shameful self-important arrogance of the highest order.

    1. Mary, why is it selfish to open a business on a business park? What has this got to do with the year someone is born?
      Oldham council planning department recommended the application for approval, as did licencing.
      It is very common for breweries to have tap rooms where customers can try products.

      Why buy a house next to a business park/industrial estate if you want to live in a noise vacuum? This was a working mill in the not too distant past (you probably remember it being built during the industrial revolution ).

      On the estate currently, there is a personal training gym, a bike shop and mountain rescue. They all operate in hours that are beyond the typical working hours.

  2. Well Mary as a 63 year old and therefore very far from the ‘ millennial’ generation I think the brewery tap was a great local asset, and yes I do live in Greenfield and have for 29 years. Local businesses that provide employment should be fully supported, and the tap room was a lovely place to visit after a walk. I do hope they win their application.

  3. I live very close to the brewery and thoroughly support their application, we’ve never experienced any noise or disturbance from them even though we completely overlook them. In fact we hadn’t even noticed they were there until after the planning permission was refused and we wondered why. The protesters do not speak for all the local residents.

  4. Mary Lazenby – it was very ‘selfish’ of OMBC to disregard the ‘amenity of residents’ when they allowed Tesco to be built, also when they pushed for this monstrous 500 children primary school, (did you object to those?) Residents’ objections never stopped them before. And not all of those developments gave employment to local people as Donkeystones does. Sadly money talks and those with it always seem to get their way. Is that by threatening court action that OMBC can’t afford to contest? I must say, I’m very surprised at Saddleworth Parish Council for no longer supporting the venture. They must know that when they object to a new development, OMBC take no notice, yet if they support a refusal, OMBC will use that as evidence that Saddleworth doesn’t want Donkeystones. I would like to know who on the parish council objected.

    1. Jo, the Minutes of the Parish Council planning committee metting held on Monday 4th Nov show:
      There were present: Cllrs: N. Allsopp (Chair)
      R. Darlington (Vice Chair)
      Cllrs: M. Bingley D. Goodman
      P. Byrne L. Lancaster
      K. Dawson C. Roberts
      L. Dawson M. Woodvine

      Recommendation: REFUSE
      The proposal would result in a loss of amenity due to the impact of noise, disturbance and
      other related activities harmful to the living conditions of existing residents.

      Those who voted against approval should be ashamed of themselves. I wonder what the going price is these days to buy off a councillor…

  5. We miss Donkeystone Tap room so much. These lazy millennials starting businesses and employing people, how very dare they.
    The tap room was one of the few places we felt was really welcoming to young families like my own in Saddleworth. The perfect place to warm up or cool down after an afternoon on the moor. I’ve never seen any antisocial behaviour there, the reason we regularly took our two young children. It is sadly missed and wish you all the luck in the world with the new bid. I too am a local resident.

  6. “Shameful self-important arrogance of the highest order”….sage words indeed Mary. However, carefully reading through the facts of the application (not hearsay peddled by a vocal militant few) would suggest that your well penned statement is directed at the wrong party.
    The clue to the purpose of a business park (or even indeed an “Industrial Estate” as you so describe) is in the name and the reason that it exists at Boarshurst is not down to Donkeystone or Mountain Rescue or any of the other tenants but more to a Council that saw the opportunity to grant permission for an enterprise park in a residential area. Assuming you are a local resident, then you may well have noticed other examples in such close proximity to residential areas in Delph, Dobcross and Diggle – this is not a unique concept.
    We are very fortunate to live in a beautiful corner of England which is also blessed with very good transport links, schools aplenty and many thriving businesses – both established and young, centrally located on the villages or in zones such as Boarshurst.

    Donkeystone Tap is not a pub not a pub nor a noisy brash bar (the clientele for such places are well catered for in all the village centres). It has never set out to be so and I believe has absolutely no desire to be so. It is however a calm haven for young and old alike to sit and catch up. Yes, I have been known to frequent the Tap…not once have I known that it is even open until approaching the door, such is the lack of noise or sound. I would invite any objecting resident to offer evidence of noise even approaching the levels from ambient traffic etc (let alone the levels of a neighbour’s summer barbecue/party (indoor or garden) eminating from Donkeystone.

    “Welcoming, open minded, community focused enterprise of the highest order”

  7. Come on guys it’s really simple.

    The planning permission says companies in the business park should shut at 6pm, so just shut Donkeystone at 6pm. It’s not rocket science.

    And to suggest it’s some kind of class war between rich people and poor people shows how ludicrous this situation has become . Admit it, you’ve set up your business up in the wrong place so stop giving yourself a hard time and relocate to somewhere you’ll be happier.

    Britain’s High Streets are littered with Micro-Breweries who do really well and serve their local communities without any grief. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.

    Then you can have as many late night parties, BBQs, beer tasting sessions as you like and everyone will be happy.


    1. John, this is why planning permission exists. So people can apply for permission to do things a little differently than the previous circumstances. Plus, businesses on the other side of the park have no time constraints, so it’s disingenuous to suggest the whole park is under the same rule. Plus, OMRT are next door, are you suggesting that they can only access the facility before business hours finish? Or the PT gym? Or Bikeanics? All these businesses and organisations need to open out of 9-5 hours.

      You can’t surely be suggesting it’s one rule for Donkeystone and one rule for the others because it fits your agenda?

      1. Hi James.

        That’s a good point, but there is a material difference. The gym, Bikeanics and Oldham Mountain Rescue don’t involve people getting drunk and shouting loudly when they leave the premises. And none of them have either acoustic nor amplified music at the heart of what they do.

        I don’t have a problem per se with having slightly flexible hours, I’m just saying how ludicrous it is for the guys to keep on fighting to run a business in an inappropriate place. It’s like opening a brothel next to a nunnery, it doesn’t make any sense.

        They should concentrate their efforts on moving the business to somewhere less residential, Donkeystone will become more visible and more successful and the people who live nearby will live quieter lives.

        The whole battle just seems such a colossal waste of everyone’s time, that’s all

        1. Actually John, if you’d read the article you’d realise that the new application has removed all music and entertainment, so chalk that off. Besides, these non existent shouting people you mention, are they louder than off road land rovers speeding off to help people at all hours of the night? Or roller shutter doors clattering down? Also, playing music whilst you work out is pretty much all a gym is, in case you weren’t sure.

          I’ll ignore the brothel/nunnery comment because I literally have no idea what you are on about. Moving the business would cost tens of thousands of pounds. And moving it to somewhere in the middle of nowhere sounds like a terrible business plan. How would customers get there?

          Believe me, the brewery feel this is a giant waste of time and money, but the feeling is that sapping vital/time and resources from a fledgling business is exactly what the objectors want.

          1. James,

            Donkeystone thinking that ‘rich people’ are trying to ‘sap vital resources from a fledging business’ and ruin young entrepreneurs’ dreams is what’s wrong with their whole campaign. There’s no ‘big conspiracy’ going on, local people just don’t want a bar in a residential location. Surely that’s not hard for you to understand, is it?

            And the guys at Donkeystone not appreciating the crux of that argument is the reason they’re in the pickle they are now. And probably why they opened the tap room without permission because in their hearts they knew it was wrong.


  8. ☝️wot that guy said LOL donkey stone should move next 2 muse or waggon over in Upper mill who wants 2 drink in an old tin shed anyway scruffy gets ha ha get it moved 😀 🍺 🍻 🐴

    1. Thanks for the input Callum, I’m pretty sure that the brewery is operating perfectly up there if it makes people like you not want to go in.
      It’s a family space, the complete opposite of places in Uppermill which many customers avoid like the plague.

  9. Callum, Callum, Callum ! “Wot”!🤣
    You couldn’t have made a stronger statement in support of a family friendly brewery tap if you had tried! Donkey Stone tap is the ABSOLUTE antithesis of the venues you reference in Uppermill. Like most of the small number of objectors to this revised application, I doubt you have ever visited the brewery tap. It attracts people from a wide age range (35-80) who like to converse with their friends and family (and often the dog) over a pint or two of finely crafted ale in front of a log burning stove. WHO are the rowdy customers you and others refer to? It’s NOT a young and trendy place not does it EVER aspire to be, as you say it’s a tin shed (surprising that 🤔 being a business park / industrial estate), so you can’t have your cake and eat it.
    The new planning application states that there will NOT be any live or amplified music, so WHERE is the noise threat coming from?
    Rather like most political issues these days, it seems we all have to adopt an extremely polarised position! WE DON’T. This is a well run startup business which is a credit to our village . It provides a unique venue for families of all ages to enjoy a quiet drink close to where we live. Appraise this application on its own merits and the facts!

  10. Comment in response to John.

    I’m struggling understand why you keep calling a business park a residential area. It’s a business park. Nobody lives on it. People live near it, but it’s been there for years. I’d say if you don’t want the noise of people, live somewhere up on the moors.

    What is the difference to the king bill being at the bottom of the road being near far more houses?

    Oldham councils planning team, Oldham licensing and environmental health saw fit to recommend approval for the application last time. And they are trained to determine wether a scheme is appropriate.

    The tap room was opened as a tasting bar, which is allowed. Due to popularity it seemed reasonable to acquire a more fitting permission, in light of concern from a couple of residents.

    1. Oh and John. If you check the planning portal, it’s 2:1 in favour of the brewery just considering local comments. It’s not rocket science, it’s just maths.


  11. As a local resident and one who has frequented the Tap Room on a number of occasions, I believe I can add a little brevity to the situation with a simple solution.

    The Tap Room is mainly used, as Donkeystone say, for potential business customers to sample their products. Therefore there is no pressing need for it to be open beyond business hours. So if they apply to open the Tap Room until, say, 6pm, this will make both parties happy. Donkeystone will have the Tap Room they need to grow their business, and people who live nearby won’t object.

    As both parties are becoming angry and confrontational, a simple compromise like above is the only answer.

    I do hope that helps.

  12. It is not at all surprising that Donkeystone haven’t responded to this sensible post from Dr Pritchard. That is because they don’t want to have to close at 6.00pm, and because their “tap room” is not used mainly by potential business customers to sample their products. What they want to continue to do is run a public bar selling their own products, but also catering for drinkers who want wines, spirits and mainstream beers.

    For a business which claims to be so community minded, Donkeystone has split the community in Greenfield and are continuing to make up ridiculous stories about class differences which are designed to deepen the community divide, instead of trying to understand why there is such a stand-off.

    To accuse people who are standing up for their community of causing job losses is really low. The people who own this business have known for a year or more that they don’t have the permissions that they need from the Council to run a bar, and they offered jobs to people anyway. So, any responsibility to do with jobs sits with the owners. Anyway, why can’t bar staff work at the bar when brewery tours are taking place during the day? Donkeystone are already allowed to do that, but they don’t want to do this, because it doesn’t fit their business plan.

    They need to stop pretending that this is all down to a handful of people, stop these idiotic class war/money talks arguments, stop feeling so sorry for themselves, realise that there is a problem which isn’t going to go away, and TALK to people in the Greenfield community about how the problems might be fixed.

    1. Sam, what do you think this is? Brexit?

      The brewery tap has not divided the village. There are a couple of people who have stoked up a lot of hysterical nonsense about the place.
      They should be ashamed of themselves.

      Have you ever tried running a business? You wouldn’t feel so blasé about the issue if you’d truly worked for something that others are trying to destroy.

      The support overwhelmingly outnumbers the objectors. It’s not even close.

      Whether you like it or not, bar staff have been let go. The situation is more complex than just ‘they knew they weren’t allowed but did it anyway’. The popularity of the tap room meant applying for planning was necessary. At the start, it was just a simple tasting bar. The brewery acted on advice from Oldham council, who by the way recommend the application to be granted.

      The business has attempted to speak to those concerned at the residents association to explain what was happening.

      What exactly does shutting down a fantastic amenity, run by local people have to do with standing up for the community? From where we are sitting it looks the opposite

  13. Dear Susan and Sam

    To quote an earlier commenter on this thread:

    “I live very close to the brewery and thoroughly support their application, we’ve never experienced any noise or disturbance from them even though we completely overlook them. In fact we hadn’t even noticed they were there until after the planning permission was refused and we wondered why. The protesters do not speak for all the local residents“

    The unit closest to any residence is number 19 ie. Mountain Rescue (MR) and I can only assume that their training practices and call-outs are a) far quieter and b) occurring at hours much more agreeable to you? This must be the case, otherwise a similar level of complaint must have been levelled at them?

    If not, is this protest primarily driven by your preference to tolerate noise from MR and not from DS? The fact that you simply don’t like the idea of a Tap Room nearby? If noise is your concern then sadly this seems the only conclusion to be made.

    P.S. I believe many of those supporting DS were actually either engaged with or partaking in the Santa Dash this weekend, helping to raise funds for the Round Table. Or perhaps enjoying time with their families (unfortunately not at Donkeystone Tap however).

  14. The objectors have no case.

    They claim DS is a source of ‘noise disturbance’. Tell me then how the Oldham Mountain Rescue Team, who are located closer to the main complainants manage to operate 24/7 with numerous vehicles coming and going, roller shutters being opened and closed, heavy equipment being moved at all hours of the day and night and yet this doesn’t seem to even raise a peep from the neighbours? All of this creates more noise than anything they could ever hear from inside the tap room. As mentioned previously by many people, you don’t even know if the tap room is open until you are almost at their front door! Walk inside and there are numerous families, mountain bikers, dog walkers and old friends enjoying a pleasant drink with background music at such a comfortable low volume that you don’t need to raise your voice to have a conversation.

    DS supplied audio and video recordings prior to the previous planning meeting proving that there is absolutely no issue of noise disturbance to nearby residents caused by the tap room. This evidence was ‘mysteriously’ omitted from the proceedings.

    Oldham Planning must grant permission on this application as to deny it on the grounds of ‘noise disturbance’ would show their complete lack of understanding of the issue at hand. You can not have one rule for one and one for another. To deny DS their tap room to operate at their new restricted hours for three out of seven days a week and continue to allow Mountain Rescue to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week making more noise is a complete contradiction of policy and would ultimately become a PR nightmare for the council which to be honest, really could do without any more bad press at the moment.

    As at today, 39 people have recorded their objections with the council as opposed to 243 in support. Surely this speaks volumes.

    What is the real issue here? 99% of the objectors have never set foot in the brewery tap. They allow their ‘case against’ which is full of misinformation and shameful lies to be published in a local paper to make their stance known.

    The Saddleworth Parish Councilors, upon being presented with a revised application from DS with concessions and improved conditions have switched their recommendation from ‘approve’ to ‘deny – funny that…

    The Senior Environmental Health Officer who had been assigned to the case and had recommended approval of the new , revised application was ‘suddenly replaced’ at the 11th hour by another officer who has not continued with the previous recommendations from his colleague – funny that…

    Money talks.

    The objectors have no case.

    Perhaps if they had spent their thousands of pounds used to fight this application on giving back to their community instead – say by funding a new Christmas tree and village decorations in Greenfield to replace the sorry display there is at the moment then they would all feel a bit better about themselves by being a part of their community rather than isolating themselves from it.

    The objectors have no case. It’s pathetic.

  15. I’ve just read the news about Donkeystone getting a 6pm licence. It’s a very satisfactory compromise from the planning department; Donkeystone have the daytime Tap Room they need to promote their brand and sell to potential customers, and residents won’t be disturbed by late night comings and goings.

    Well done to everyone for a sensible solution.

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