Permission refused for new winery building in Kent Downs AONB

26 Jul 2023

Public Law and Judicial Review, Planning and Environment, Local Government

Following a two-week inquiry, an Inspector has rejected a proposal for a new 15,000 sqm winery building housing a café, restaurant and visitor centre together with an energy centre, car park and access road.

The proposal was located within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Green Belt and adjacent to a Conservation Area.

The Inspector concluded the scheme was not an inappropriate development in the Green Belt on the basis that wine production amounts to agricultural use (DL, 17). Nevertheless, he agreed with the Council’s case in its entirety that there would be significant harm to the AONB landscape “recognised for its seclusion and intimacy” (DL, 35) and the Conservation Area, with which the appeal site had “an intimate relationship determined by topography, its enclosure, relative tranquility and seclusion” (DL, 98).

Accepting the scheme was “major development” in the AONB, the Inspector applied the national policy at paragraph 177 NPPF. He concluded that:

  • the need for the scheme was not established (DL, 142) and the expansion of processing capacity could be delivered through other options (DL, 143);
  • the evidence advanced on the costs of developing the scheme elsewhere and the contribution to the economy was “insufficiently detailed to enable … a thorough assessment as required by paragraph 177 NPPF” (DL, 131); and
  • the “public interest” case “was not sufficiently made” (DL,152). The English ‘wine revolution’ sought to be catalysed by the proposal could be addressed by development outside the AONB (DL, 152). As such, the public interest in the scheme, including in its “aesthetic grace” (DL, 150), did not outweigh the identified planning harm.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

Ashley Bowes and Rowan Clapp acted for the successful Medway Council.