Westerham Brewery’s much-anticipated return to the town passed its first hurdle after gaining the support of the town council.

A meeting of Westerham Town Council’s planning and development committee was held on Thursday to consider the planning application submitted by the brewery and the Squerryes Estate.

Robert Wicks, of Westerham Brewery, and Henry Warde, of Squerryes, want to build the new facility at Charmans Farm, on Beggars Lane.

The site, owned by Squerryes, is currently broadly derelict and the pair hope to bring the brewery back to the town to re-engage Westerham residents with this historic industry.

Chairing the meeting, councillor Philip Ashley agreed with a pre-application report from a Sevenoaks District Council planning officer that the proposed building would be an inappropriate development in the Green Belt as it is larger than the sawmill it will replace.

But Mr Warde and Mr Wicks have put forward a number of very special circumstances including the poor condition of the existing sawmill building which will be knocked down.

They say the building is not currently making a positive contribution to the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty while the proposed modern facility will result in an overall benefit to the area’s appearance.

Cllr Ashley said the pair had made “a strong case on the special circumstances” which underpin this proposal and saw the advantage of moving the brewery away from its current home at Grange Farm, Crockham Hill.

“The relocation of the brewery will also improve the traffic flows in Crockham Hill,” he said, “so there is a benefit there by moving it closer to the A25.

“And overall we will put forward a recommendation for the application on the grounds of special circumstances.”

Cllr Linda Rodgers supported the application on the grounds it would bring jobs to the town.

“There is scope for more employment for Westerham as the new facility will be employing 22 people,” she said. “Those jobs will be available to local people.”

Cllr David le Breton was also supportinve of the brewery returning to Westerham.

“I am thoroughly in favour of it because I think it’s remarkably unobtrusive in the Green Belt,” he said. “It is swapping one bit of the Green Belt for this one.

“Most developments of this size involve huge towers, chimneys and masts b there is nothing like that here.

“It’s a low-level farm-type building and it is using local products and it will be extremely beneficial to the local economic community.”

The proposed building will measure 42m by 18m and brewing production will be 24 hours a day Monday to Friday, and 7am to 7pm on Saturdays.

As part of the plans there will be 44 parking spaces and it is hoped the building will be clad in oak weatherboarding planted at Westerham Wood.

The scheme has already received an overwhelmingly positive response on the council’s planning website with many comments received in favour of the move.

Adrian Stockman from Madan Road said: “I believe the proposed development would encourage more local people to socialise in Westerham as well as attracting visitors to the area and could be valuable and scenic addition to the Westerham landscape.”

And Paul Bailey-Smith from Sutherland Avenue, Biggin Hill, said: “I fully support this proposal to bring a valuable commercial entity back to Westerham.

“The site is more or less derelict and the brewery and winery can only be an asset, both financial and cultural to the area.”

Comments can be submitted to the council until March 12.