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News of a £30 million expansion to the Bushmills Distillery has been welcomed by politicians as a major boost for the area.

In 2014, the whiskey brand was bought by Mexican headquartered firm, Jose Cuervo and it has now filed a planning applciation for a new distillery facility, which it says will “effectively double production capacity”.

The expansion should lead to the creation of up to 20 jobs. The distillery currently employs around 150 full-time and agency staff.

The plan adds that there will also be around £3m of capital expenditure at the facility every year for the next 10 -15 years.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has hailed the announcement as a ‘fantastic vote of confidence for Northern Ireland and North Antrim’.

The MP said: “Soon after the company was acquired I met with the new owner and he briefed me of his plans to expand. Within just over a year he has been good to his word and this will secure production and jobs for decades.”

“The plans, which include a complete renovation of the site’s visitors centre is estimated at £30 million to be invested over the next ten years and will be seeking approval by the Causeway Coast and Glens Council in the new year.

“The Beckmann family acquired the site off Diageo in November 2014 and at the time hailed it as their biggest achievement in their 250 year history.

“This news comes at such a crucial time for this constituency following the tough year of closure announcements at both the JTI and Michelin manufacturing sites.

“Several years ago the Giant’s Causeway opened their new visitor centre and it has been a spectacular success with record visitor numbers.

“To add a state of the art tourist attraction just a couple of miles further down the road at the distillery will undoubtedly see a boom in tourism figures.

“It is so important that we raise the profile of Northern Ireland as a wonderful place to visit not just for the attractions of Belfast but also the stunning coastlines and areas of outstanding natural beauty that we have at our disposal in areas such as North Antrim.”

“The creation of new jobs as well as an increase in the average earnings of staff at the distillery, not to mention the economic boost the area will receive in other areas such as hospitality and shopping as a result is fantastic.”

UUP North Antrim MLA Robin Swann says he hopes the planned expansion could also have a knock-on effect on the local tourist trade with potentially more jobs in that sector.

He said: “I am very pleased to see new owner investing in North Antrim.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the commitment by the international parent company which is willing to invest in and commit to the people who have been loyal to the distillery.

“I also hope this new investment will bring new employment, not just for the distillery itself, but can be used as a springboard to being more jobs for the local tourist trade throughout the constituency.”