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Contentious Foster + Partners-designed Kent winery rejected at second attempt

Ambitious plans for a striking Foster + Partners-designed winery in Kent have been rejected by Medway Council, a decision that prompted a spontaneous round of applause from those in attendance after more than 1,000 people signed a petition against the development.

In December 2021, we reported the news that representatives for Medway, Kent voted unanimously not to support the construction of The Kentish Wine Vault – a £30 million project that would have produced some five million bottles of wine per year. The decision was delayed as councillors requested more time to consider concerns over the volume of traffic and potential impact on land that falls within an Area of Outstanding National Beauty.

Despite the setback in December, the winery was largely tipped to be approved by councillors at the second time of asking, after the council’s planning officers recommended approval for the scheme last week.

However, Medway Council voted to reject the development plans – with eight councillors voting against and five for.

The planning officers’ recommendation for approval was based upon numerous conditions surrounding the development work.

The ambitious project, which could have seen the Kentish Wine Vault become the largest single wine estate in the UK, was set to cost £30 million and would have included a restaurant, tasting room and cafe. Architects Journal reports that the winery building was designed to be 85% subterranean.

The Kentish Wine Vault was contentious from the outset, and some 600 people wrote objection letters against the plans while more than 1,000 individuals added their names to a petition aimed at halting the development.

As we previously reported, the Foster + Partners design was for Vineyard Farms, the English winemaking business backed by Mark Dixon of Château Berne in Provence, who made his fortune from serviced office firm Regus.

Councillors were concerned about the impact such a development could have on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while noting that many jobs there could be seasonal – mitigating the positive impact for the local area somewhat.

Councillor Richard Thorne, who voted against the proposals, said, “It’s not agricultural, it’s commercial. And its on the green belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If this had been a vineyard without buildings it would be a completely different case”.

Foster + Partners is the largest architectural firm in the UK.

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