Craft beer firm BrewDog have slammed Aberdeenshire Council, claiming it is costing Ellon "employment, investment and facilities" due to increasing land prices.
The firm, based at Balmacassie Industrial Estate, had planned to build a hotel, restaurant, conference centre and bespoke distillery just behind its brewery, a move that would see BrewDog invest £5m into the area and create over 80 jobs.
However, in a recent blog post BrewDog revealed that their plans have been stalled due to Aberdeenshire Council charging them over 60 times fair market value for the land in question.
The post said: "On the 12th of May 2016 we had the land valued at £5,000 per acre by established and respected surveyor, DM Hall. We submitted our plans to the council for the distillery and hotel. They demanded £300,000 per acre from us.
"We have spoken with the Council several times since, but they will not budge. We want to invest in our local area and create much needed jobs yet the Council insist on making it impossible for us to do so."
BrewDog also revealed that they paid much less for 52 acres of ground in Columbus, Ohio, where the firm is currently building a new brewery, than Aberdeenshire Council is charging them for just 2.5 acres in Ellon.
The huge price of land here means that the firm is now looking to build their new establishments elsewhere.
The blog post continuned: "Aberdeenshire council’s main role is to supposedly serve the people of north east Scotland. Yet all they have done here is prevent us from creating 80 new local jobs and providing facilities which the Ellon community desperately need.
"We believe that given the climate in the North East of Scotland with many people losing their jobs, Aberdeenshire Council should be doing all they can to encourage employment and investment, not actively preventing it."
Responding to BrewDog's claims, Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council, Jim Savege, said: "We are a proactive council with a commitment to working with local businesses. We also have a responsibility to ensure best value for public money.
"There are on-going protracted negotiations with BrewDog and this announcement appears to be intended to weaken the council's position. We're disappointed that the company has sought to break confidentiality during what we regarded as live and on-going discussions to achieve an agreement which is fair to both parties and which protects the interests of the local taxpayer, as well as creating opportunities for residents.
"At the heart of this issue is that the land BrewDog wants has been already earmarked for the expansion of the local cemetery. We cannot sell land vastly below market value - the figure BrewDog has been asked to meet is what the land is worth right now. Their suggested land value is more representative of agricultural value than a site which has permission for an alternative use.
"Assisting local businesses to expand is a key objective of Aberdeenshire CounciI. If BrewDog remains committed to taking forward this development, then we remain committed - as always - to do everything that reasonably can be done to help the company achieve its ambition."
Commenting on the issue, a spokesperson for Gordon MP, Alex Salmond said: “After learning of the situation concerning BrewDog and Aberdeenshire Council, Mr Salmond has written to the directors of BrewDog, Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Properties and Facilities, and the Estate Team Leader.
“Mr Salmond has also offered his office to facilitate any further meetings between BrewDog and Aberdeenshire Council.
“Mr Salmond has made it very clear that it is extremely important that everyone involved in this proposal does everything they can to ensure the project remains in Ellon.”
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, who is also a member of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work committee at Holyrood, said: “The allegations made by BrewDog are very worrying. I have personally worked with BrewDog on other expansion issues they had to resolve in order to facilitate their continued presence in Ellon and encourage them to grow.
“There is no doubt about it, Ellon is extremely proud of its association with one of Scotland’s most famous food and drink brands, and we want to see them continue to provide employment to the area as they grow.
“I have written to Aberdeenshire Council to get more detail from their perspective on the commentary BrewDog have made on their website and I know my MP colleague Alex Salmond and Councillor Richard Thomson are doing the same.”