Published: 05:00, 26 November 2021
| Updated: 15:32, 26 November 2021
A luxury family estate kept out of public view for decades is to become a wedding venue from next year - despite a string of objections from neighbours.
Thanet District Council has granted permission for the Chapel House estate, outside Minster, to cater for 120 guests and offer overnight accommodation.
The main house - the centrepiece of the 25-acre site - dates back to 1290 and is Grade II-listed.
The new venue will offer wedding packages of up to three days and is set to launch in spring 2022.
The proposals for the estate split opinion during the formal planning process, with 58 people lodging objections against the scheme and 23 writing in favour.
Despite a number of concerns - including fears over traffic, loss of privacy, and a general dislike of the wedding venue vision - the district council has rubber-stamped the project.
It means the estate will be turned into a "leading wedding destination", offering a 24-hour chauffeur service to shuttle guests to where they need to be.
One objector labelled the plans to transform the site as "traumatic", while another commented how the district is already "awash with under-used event venues".
Others raised fears over the use of fireworks at the site, claiming how the development will disturb village life - and give rise to "rubbish and drunken disorderly behaviour".
The council admits the scheme will likely pose an increase in noise and disturbance, yet it considers the increase "would not be significantly harmful".
"When any remaining harm resulting from the proposed development is weighed against the benefits of the proposed development, it is considered to be outweighed," the planning report states.
With permission now granted, a 70-space grassy car park will be created.
The estate is set to offer various locations for wedding ceremonies to take place - ranging from an apple orchard and courtyard, to an old granary.
Couples who have tied the knot will be able to stay overnight in the main house, and 10 additional lodges for guests are to be created.
Jonathan Sawyers, one of the figures behind the project, said: “We fell in love with Chapel House as soon as we entered the grounds.
"Each time we visited the estate, the more opportunities we could see for creating a leading destination wedding venue.
"The vast acreage allows guests to disappear into nature whilst the buildings close to Chapel House will create the perfect space for couples who want their guests to truly feel part of the celebrations.”
Project leaders say produce will be sourced from local farms, and the catering will be overseen by Matt Sworder - the chef owner of the Corner House restaurants in Minster and Canterbury.
Weddings are planned to be an all-year-round operation.
Before the application was determined, South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay threw his support behind the wedding plan and wrote to the council.
He said: "I wanted to pass on to you how impressed I was with the project which would provide a much needed venue of this type, likely to bring in significant new spend and tourism to Thanet."
Planning documents lodged with the application state how "lush green paddocks and a tree boundary wrap around the property providing seclusion, privacy, and a secure space".
The documents go on to highlight why the scheme has been devised.
"The UK wedding industry alone contributes in excess of £10 billion – a number that has shown continued growth year on year with the obvious exception of 2020, and yet the appetite for getting married remains healthy as couples plan for what is predicted to be some of the busiest years ahead, post Covid," the papers read.
"This industry growth has largely been down to the trend of weddings spread across two days, incorporating a night’s stay either before, on the night of the wedding or both.
"With this increasingly popular trend, 43% more couples are choosing to have their wedding run for two days or more, which means couples are prioritising their search for venues with a unique selling proposition and/or destination location, which can accommodate their guests and provide a mini break."