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New national park threatens growth of vineyards

Published:  28 October, 2009

The future growth of Sussex vineyards may be under threat due to a national park that will be created in early 2010.

Mike Roberts, owner of Ridgeview Estate, told Harpers how it will become difficult for him and other wineries within the South Downs national park boundaries to expand because of restrictive planning legislation.

"The idea of making wines that belong in a national park is interesting," said Roberts. "But on the other side of the coin any future planning will be subject to the national park planning body and it is unlikely that will allow for expansion.

"It means that not only will we not be able to grow in size but we will have to apply for planning permission to set up tasting facilities or extensions to the winery."

Roberts who produces sparkling wines made by traditional varieties and methods sees this as a concern because the much of the English wine industry is currently in growth. "Our first harvest was in 1997 and we have grown every year since then. We thought 2008 was our record vintage, but 2009 will double that."

He says that there is capacity for around 1-million bottles of wine to be produced within the park, but adds there is no mention of the agri-industry in the plans.

"I hope they will take into consideration the economic wellbeing of those that live and work within its boundaries," says Roberts.

The South Downs national park will come into being next April, it will stretch between Eastbourne and Winchester and contain a total population of 108,000.