Published: 11:13, 06 December 2021
| Updated: 11:16, 06 December 2021
Multi-million pound plans which could transform two villages into tourism attractions are due to be discussed this week.
Medway Council's planning committee will debate £13 million proposals to create holiday accommodation and a water sports centre at St Andrews Lakes in Halling, as well as a separate bid for a "world-class winery" in neighbouring Cuxton.
The "blue lake" beside the Redrow St Andrews Park development has been used for open-water swimming, fishing, and other activities in recent years.
However, in 2019 it was unveiled how St Andrews Leisure Development Ltd had applied to open it up for holidaymakers.
The proposals include the development of a water sports hub which will provide facilities for deep-water diving, sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, rowing, and swimming, within the lake which had once been a quarry.
A total of 30 holiday lets would be included, some of which would be "floating pods" – the plans also include zip wires, a fishing lodge, a floating pontoon, changing facilities, a café, as well as environmental enhancements and a visitors' car park.
Medway Council's planning department have recommended approval for the plans subject to a referral to the government.
A number of objections to the proposals were put forward including from Halling and Cuxton parish councils, the conservation charity Buglife, and Kent Wildlife Trust.
The site falls within the green belt, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB), and the North Downs Special Landscape Area.
Ecological surveys found there were various species of bats, dormice, lizards, grass snakes, and a number of birds.
It was recommended as part of the plans that regular species monitoring would be carried out if they were successful.
Among the concerns are impact of traffic regarding road safety and air pollution, habitat loss for invertebrates and the impact the development would have on residents of St Andrews Park – particularly with concerns to the zip wire with people hearing screams from thrill seekers.
Similarly, the land being considered for the winery is also designated within the ANOB and Greenbelt – it also borders Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
The plans for the land off Upper Bush, which were put forward by Vineyard Farms Ltd, include a wine production facility, a café, visitors' centre, and a car park.
The design was created by Lord Norman Foster, who was behind The Gherkin and the Wembley Arch.
Some 85% of the building would be underground and it is estimated the facility would provide between 75 and 100 jobs.
A petition signed by more than 1,000 people was put forward in opposition.
Although the Kent Downs AONB Unit did not object to the blue lake proposals, they did write to the council to object to the winery.
It was oined by Cuxton Parish Council and the West Kent Badger Group in criticising the plans.
In recommending approval for the proposals, Medway Council's planning department concluded: "In response to the sensitivity of the Kent Downs AONB and the green belt designation, a well-considered and elegant design has been developed.
"It utilises materials that are appropriate to the Kent Downs and it is considered that the building responds appropriately to its location."
The planning committee will be meeting this Wednesday.