A legal challenge has forced a council to quash the permission it granted for a huge new Chapel Down winery in the Kent countryside.
Planning approval was granted in April for the £32 million development at Canterbury Business Park off the A2 at Bridge, on the outskirts of the city, which would allow the company to move and upscale its production facilities from Tenterden.
Members of Canterbury City Council’s planning committee decided in April that there were “exceptional circumstances” to approve the scheme which covers 6.7 hectares of the protected countryside.
But objectors took legal advice and a letter threatening Judicial Review proceedings was sent to the authority, citing three grounds to challenge the decision.
Now the city council’s legal advisors have conceded that one of the grounds is “arguable”.
The council subsequently quashed its own decision on June 23 and the planning committee will now reconsider the application on July 25.
It will be asked to approve a hybrid application for the 11,900 sq m winery with associated parking and landscaping – and an outline proposal for up to 8,000 sq m of warehousing to support the winery at Highland Court Farm.
In the report to planning committee members, officers say that shortly after permission was granted, a pre-action Letter for Judicial Review proceedings was received from Richard Buxton Solicitors, challenging the council’s decision on three grounds.
The report says: “The advice of a barrister was sought and his opinion was that one of the grounds, relating to the importance and weight of heritage assets, was arguable and on that basis, the application should be re-determined.”
Chapel Down has described the proposed move as an "economic game-changer" for the award-winning company
It predicts the business could become "the UK’s biggest selling premium sparkling wine brand, overtaking Moet and Chandon.
Chapel Down chief executive Andrew Carter says the company is on a mission “to change the way the world thinks about English wines forever”.
He adds: “This proposal offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring the national brand of Chapel Down to Canterbury Business Park, thereby securing the district’s status as the UK’s leading centre of wine production.”
But Adisham villager David Condor, who is a member of the Conserve Adisham’s Rural Environment (CARE) campaign against the new winery on the grounds it is damaging to the countryside, is now encouraging others to resubmit their objections or make new ones.
“Now that many more people understand the scale of this scheme and its totally inappropriate location (and its likely negative on Adisham), this gives another opportunity to local people to comment,” he says.
“Just to be clear, this scheme is not about a delightful opportunity to sip locally-produced wine while gazing over top-class English countryside.”