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Plans for boutique wine hotel at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone accepted by council


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A boutique wine hotel will open in one of a town's most historic buildings.

Maidstone council has accepted an entrepreneur's plans to create the venue at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone.

Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone Picture: Andy Jones
Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone Picture: Andy Jones

Richard Balfour-Lynn's plans for the 12th century building include creating three new buildings for luxury bedrooms in the grounds overlook the River Medway and Len.

The entrepreneur, who owns Balfour Winery on the Hush Heath Esate in Staplehurst, wants the hotel to boast restaurants and bars and a state-of-the-art wedding and conference facilities.

Proposals also include a wine and viticultural education centre at the heart of the Archbishop's Palace, with a key focus on English wine and spirits, with the focus on Kent-based producers.

Mr Balfour-Lynn has an exclusive six-month contract to develop the plans with Maidstone Borough Council.

After then, if all goes well, the palace will remain open to the public as a "well-loved historic site".

Balfour Winery is part of a group known as the Wine Garden of England, a partnership of the eight major wineries in Kent that was formed a few years ago to promote the growing wine tourism sector.

Mr Balfour-Lynn hopes the project will help him create a wine tourist map - with the help of similar to the likes of Napa Valley in California, Margaret River in Australia and the Champagne region in France.

His vision is that with Maidstone only being an hour away from London it will become the "urban centre of the Kent wine industry", with the Archbishop's Palace being the "hub and focal point" for all Kent wineries.

He said: "The Archbishop’s Palace will become both the champion and beating heart of Kent wines, spirits and local food produce.

"Part of our plans will be to run tutored wine tastings as well as wine making and viticultural courses from the venue with the palace becoming the centre of the Kent wine tourist sector, attracting visitors from London and further afield. Authenticity will lie at the heart of the offer."

It is hoped the plans will "enhance the town's reputation", as well as create more than 100 jobs.

Richard Balfour-Lynn, from Balfour Winery in Staplehurst, will work on the plans with Maidstone Borough Council for six months
Richard Balfour-Lynn, from Balfour Winery in Staplehurst, will work on the plans with Maidstone Borough Council for six months

Council leader David Burton said: "It’s very early days but Richard has a long and successful business career behind him and we should give him time to formulate his ideas. We’re very excited to see what he comes up with."

The future of the historic building in the town centre has been unknown for months after it was announced Kent County Council's lease - which started in 2005 - expired in October.

Later this year it will return to the hands of the local authority who initially opened a public consultation for residents' views on what the building should be used for.

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