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Seven homes planned for Lamberhurst Vineyard

Controversial plans to allow seven affordable homes to be built on land that is part of a working Weald vineyard are expected to be approved tonight.

Planning officers will recommend that councillors on Tunbridge Wells planning committee pass a scheme from Gold Property Ltd to build the homes at the Lamberhurst Vineyard in Furnace Lane, Lamberhurst Down.

Grapes are still grown but no wine is made at the vineyard now
Grapes are still grown but no wine is made at the vineyard now

They say that the site would be considered sustainable in planning terms due to its nearness to the village, and that the borough was currently without a five-year housing land supply, meaning it would need a very good reason to refuse permission.

The scheme is for a mix of three two-bedroom bungalows, three three-bedroom houses and one four-bedroom house.

There have been 194 letters of objection with neighbours mostly concerned about the impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which it sits, and the adverse effect on the landscape, the loss of agricultural land and the fear that approval would open the way for more development on the rest of the vineyard.

Lamberhurst Parish Council also objected saying the application was inconsistent with the national planning policy was also contrary to the Lamberhurst Neighbourhood plan.

It also disputed that the site was sustainable, saying the walk to the village was over a kilometre and included a steep hill.

A scene at Lamberhurst Vineyard
A scene at Lamberhurst Vineyard

The parish council said that the vineyard has been largely uncultivated for about three years and has been "generally neglected."

But, it said, someone had recently taken a 10-year lease on the land to turn it back into valuable production, and that to lose any part, with the total acreage of the vineyard at only around 25 acres, would impair the chances of the vineyard coming back into successful production.

The applicants said the land was still being used to grow grapes, but they were no longer turned into wine on site, but sold on.

They said the grape production was unviable. The former winery buildings have already been turned into offices and a nursery.

Lamberhurst Vineyard (63516410)
Lamberhurst Vineyard (63516410)

The borough's planning officers said the site qualified a as Rural Exception Site and that there was a need for more affordable social-rented properties within Lamberhurst with 10 local families currently on the waiting list.

Tenancies would be granted first to people with a local connection to the village.

The developer would be required to pay a total of nearly £70,00 towards extra education and library provision in the area.

Another application for 10 affordable units at Downs Farm has already been recently approved.

Officers would have approved the scheme already using delegated powers if the matter had not been called in for committee decision by Cllrs Linda Hall (Con) and Cllr David Knight (TWA).

Back in 1977, the vineyard was one of England's first commercial wineries
Back in 1977, the vineyard was one of England's first commercial wineries

Lamberhurst Vineyard was established in 1977, one of the first commercial vineyards in England.

Details of the application can be viewed here.
Application number 22/03024 refers.

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