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Plan for major English winery development in Kent blocked

A council in southern England has voted against a billionaire’s proposal to develop one of the UK's largest wineries within its local area.

Medway councillors in Kent have voted against plans to build the ‘Kentish Wine Vault’ English winery on ‘green belt’ land located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), surrounding the small village of Cuxton.

Plans for the major winery development were submitted by Vineyard Farms Ltd, sister group of MDCV UK Ltd, which is controlled by Mark Dixon, the billionaire British businessman resident of Monaco.

Designed by leading architecture group Foster & Partners, Kentish Wine Vault (KWV) would have a floor space of 15,912 square metres, double the size of a football pitch, and include a visitor’s centre with a café-restaurant, tasting room, and a car park.

Around 85% of the winery would be built underground over two floors. It’s been reported that the project could cost £30m.

However, last night, Medway Council’s cross-party planning committee voted against the KWV by eight votes to five in the wake of widespread local opposition to the development over traffic and environmental concerns. Councillor Stephen Hubbard said the applicant had ‘departed from established planning policies’ regarding construction on green belt land.

A protest banner related to plans for an English winery development in Kent.

Photo credit: Katie May.

Prior to the vote, councillors were greeted by local protestors who held banners and sang a song in praise of peace, tranquillity, and skylarks.

‘Considering next steps’

MDCV and Vineyard Farms Ltd are understood to be considering a bid to launch an appeal to the UK government’s secretary of state over last night’s council vote.

Gary Smith, CEO of Vineyard Farms and MDCV, told Decanter: ‘We are of course disappointed that Medway Council has rejected our plans for a new world-class winery.

‘As an agricultural business, we have a clear need for a new winemaking facility. We will now take time to review all planning options available to us as we consider our next steps,’ he said.

‘The KWV has the potential to deliver a multi-million-pound investment in the economy, boost tourism and create much-needed new jobs for local people,’ Smith added.

‘The project would set new standards for sustainability and put Medway at the heart of the English wine market.’

MDCV, Britain’s biggest wine estate, which has shaken-up the English wine industry by focusing on Prosecco-style, English Charmat method sparkling wine production, said it is investing a total of £60m in expansion plans, which will double its current vineyard area to 647ha (1,600 acres) by 2023.

The KWV plans included moves to increase biodiversity, with grasslands, trees and hedgerows and reduce carbon emissions, ensure energy efficiency, and mitigate climate change.

Electric shuttle bus services from four train stations would take tourists to the site.

But the plans have failed to convince residents and councillors that KWV is beneficial to the local community.

The Environment Agency and Natural England have raised no objection to the project, which Cuxton Parish Council and Kent AONB opposes.


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