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Chapel Down gets new winery approved at Canterbury Business Park off the A2, after legal fight

Drinks giant Chapel Down has secured permission for a new winery, following a major blow earlier this year.

The well-known grape-grower originally got the greenlight for the new venture at Canterbury Business Park, off the A2 near Bridge, in April.

The Chapel Down winery will be based at Canterbury Business Park
The Chapel Down winery will be based at Canterbury Business Park

However, objectors threatened a judicial review of the approval for the £32 million development, which led to Canterbury City Council (CCC) quashing their own decision and reconsidering it.

Yesterday evening, CCC’s planning committee looked again at the application for an 11,900sq m winery at Highland Court Farm, as well as an outline proposal for up to 8,000sq m of warehousing.

Chapel Down’s CEO, Andrew Carter, attended the meeting to make the case for the bid.

He said: “Kent is our home and we have a mission to change the way the world thinks about English wine forever.”

The Tenterden site, at Small Hythe Road, has the capacity for up to 2.5 million bottles of wine, “but in order to deliver our long term ambitions we require a purpose built winery facility with the capacity to produce at least 6mn bottles by 2032,” Mr Carter said.

Andrew Carter, CEO of Chapel Down, spoke at the planning meeting Picture: Chapel Down
Andrew Carter, CEO of Chapel Down, spoke at the planning meeting Picture: Chapel Down

The company hopes to plant a new vineyard on land between Wye and Chilham in 2024, he added.

Laying out his ambitions, Mr Carter said: “The role of Kent within the story of English sparkling wine growth is pivotal, we see a future for this region as celebrated as that of Champagne for it being a world class wine region.”

Contract winemakers Defined Wine, who already operate out of the Canterbury Business Park, are also set to benefit from the development, with extra warehousing to be theirs.

Defined Wines CEO Henry Sugden, also made his case to the planning committee.

He argued: “Whilst I don’t know anyone who pays to visit a potato field, lots of people pay to visit vineyards and taste the wines, and so what that means is that visitors will come down to the local vineyards, stay potentially in Canterbury and they’ll eat in local pubs.”

Chapel Down's current vineyard near Tenterden
Chapel Down's current vineyard near Tenterden

Concerns were raised in the meeting about the winery being built in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Katie Miller, a planning manager at the trust Kent Downs, and part of its AONB team, urged the council to junk the plans.

“The expansion of the wine industry is neither a national nor local priority reflected in planning policy and the benefits could be delivered by development outside of the AONB,” she argued.

Some councillors agreed, with Cllr Dan Smith (Lib Dem) saying: “I don’t think we need to make use of an area of outstanding natural beauty for this development.

“To grow grapes if it’s suitable for growing the grapes, fine, I’ve got absolutely no issue with that, but putting warehouses and hard standing there? Not so much.”

How the new winery could look
How the new winery could look

Cllr Ian Stockley (Con) was supportive, but added: “it’s unfortunate that it happens to be where it is, anywhere else would be great.”

However, committee chairwoman Cllr Pat Edwards (Lab) told members that Chapel Down had looked at 89 sites across seven Kent districts, and this one was the most suitable.

CCC’s planning committee voted to back the development with nine votes in favour and four against.

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