Maidstone Borough Council has accepted Balfour Winery entrepreneur, Richard Balfour-Lynn’s proposal to develop plans to create a boutique wine hotel in the Archbishop’s Palace, Maidstone, Kent.

One of Kent’s most historic buildings dating back to the 12th century, the Archbishop’s Palace has extensive gardens and outbuildings, and the plan is to create three new buildings for luxury bedrooms in the grounds overlooking the River Medway and the River Len. The vision is to create a boutique hotel with restaurants and bars and state of the art wedding and conference facilities. At the heart of the development, in the Palace itself, will be a wine and viticultural educational centre. But the key component of the whole enterprise is English wine and spirits with the focus on Kent based producers and locally sourced food. The Palace will remain open to the public as a well-loved historic site.

Balfour Winery on the Hush Heath Estate, Staplehurst, is part of a group known as the Wine Garden of England, a partnership of the eight major wineries in Kent that was formed a few years ago to promote the growing wine tourism sector. The group intends to create a wine tourist map of equal international standing to other destinations such as Napa Valley in California, Margaret River in Australia and the Champagne region in France. The vision is that Maidstone, only an hour away from London, will become the urban centre of the Kent wine industry and that The Archbishop’s Palace will provide a hub and a focal point for all Kent wineries.

Richard Balfour-Lynn said, ‘The Archbishop’s Palace will become both the champion and beating heart of Kent wines, spirits and local food produce. Part of our plans will be to run tutored wine tastings as well as wine making and viticultural courses from the venue with The Palace becoming the centre of the Kent wine tourist sector, attracting visitors from London and further afield. Authenticity will lie at the heart of the offer.’

Balfour-Lynn has an exclusive six- month contract to develop the plans with Maidstone Borough Council and the planning team. With a 40-year track record in hospitality, notably Hotel Du Vin, Malmaison and De Vere hotels, Balfour-Lynn is well placed to develop and run this pioneering venture.

Maidstone is Kent’s most significant town at the heart of the growing Kent wine industry. With increased visitors to the town, the impact that this new venture will have on the local business community is set to be transformational and will enhance the town’s reputation. The hotel will create over 100 new jobs in the local area.

Council leader David Burton said: ‘It’s very early days but Richard has a long and successful business career behind him and we should give him time to formulate his ideas. We’re very excited to see what he comes up with.’