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Silverhand Estate vineyard in Luddesdown near Gravesend reveal new winery plans

The company behind controversial winery plans near its vineyard has reaffirmed its ambition to expand.

Silverhand Estate officially opened in October 2023 in Luddesdown near Gravesend.

Vines at the Silverhand Estate in Luddesdown
Vines at the Silverhand Estate in Luddesdown

The vineyard is spread across 500 acres and the company believes it could produce five million bottles of wine a year if they are able to build the necessary infrastructure.

MDCV UK owns the vineyard and put forward plans to build a winery in Cuxton in 2021.

But after a lengthy battle with the council, the plans were rejected and the team are now back to the drawing board.

The operation currently has a temporary winery near its central office in Luddesdown but chief executive of MDCV UK, Gary Smith, believes they need a larger, more permanent location to keep up with the vineyard’s expansion.

The 47-year-old said: “We know there is a need for a larger winery because of the amount of vines we have in the ground.

“We have an ambition to produce up to five million bottles a year in the future which means we need a bigger facility so we looked at the winery site up in Cuxton Valley but it was unfortunately refused.”

Locals were strongly against the plans with a campaign group set up called Cuxton Against the Winery which started a petition which attracted 1,000 signatures.

When the plans were put forward to Medway Council they were rejected.

They were then subject to a planning inquiry and in July 2023 refused again.

The planning inspector said the area earmarked for the winery was the wrong location sitting at it was in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Gary Smith CEO of Silverhands Estate in Luddesdown
Gary Smith CEO of Silverhands Estate in Luddesdown

But the team are still looking for ways to expand.

Mr Smith said: “We still need a site and we are looking at that one again with a few modifications but we also have two or three others we are considering.

“We want to impact the local community as little as possible and if we take the fruit off this site it will cause more transport issues than if we produced it here.

“It’s a large area of land and generally we’re looking to get 4,000 tonnes of wine in the future. That’s a lot and we would much rather process it here.

“When you’re building something as big as we are in a small rural community you need to bring everyone with you and some people aren’t going to like it so we keep trying to get people to understand what we’re trying to do.”

Back of the Silverhands Estate temporary winery in Luddesdown
Back of the Silverhands Estate temporary winery in Luddesdown
The vineyard has taken on the lease of the Golden Lion in Luddesdown
The vineyard has taken on the lease of the Golden Lion in Luddesdown

The vineyard has recently taken over the lease of the nearby pub the Golden Lion and on April 27 opened its own tap house, The Cellar Door.

Mr Smith added: “The lease on the pub was available and we thought it was a sensible thing to take on as it was next to our winery and tap room. It was a natural extension to what we have in place.”

The winery is just one part of the company’s plans. Bosses also hope to build accommodation for visitors, produce food and teach people about the wider world of farming. They’ll also offer walks and talks about the banks of the vineyard.

Silverhand Estates held an opening day for its taphouse which Gary says had a very good reception.

He continued: “I think we had more than 150 people here which is a fantastic turnout.”

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