Authority approves two innovative projects for farm diversification

Two innovative farm diversification schemes have been given the green light by the South Downs National Park Authority.

The Planning Committee voted to approve plans for multi-million pound projects at the Wiston Estate, North Farm, Washington, and Sky Park Farm in West Harting.

Work has now started to create a rural business park anchored by the Wiston Estate Winery. The plans include demolishing, converting, and extending the current winery and offices, in addition to building five self-contained holiday units.

The work is being supported by a wide-ranging infrastructure package, including improved habitat connectivity, better routes and wayfinding for users and visitors to the site, and surface water drainage that will help improve water quality.

Meanwhile, at West Harting, an educational and visitor enterprise will diversify the existing agricultural operation of the site as a working Deer Farm. Supported by a new farm shop, visitor café, and outdoor children’s activity area, the project will promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park. The plans were also supported by The British Deer Farms and Parks Association, which noted it is a model for diversification and sustainable deer farming in the UK.

Both landscape-led schemes were approved following pre-application discussions, giving careful consideration to design and impact.

Tim Slaney, Director of Planning at the South Down National Park Authority, said: “Both these schemes represent large-scale and well-thought-out rural diversification.

“They are perfect examples of a landscape-led planning approach to deliver high-quality schemes that deliver on multiple levels. These include supporting a sustainable rural economy through job creation and promoting people’s enjoyment of the National Park.

“In the case of the Wiston proposals, the Wiston Whole Estate Plan enabled members and the local community to see how this significant development relates to the management of the estate and wider landscape.

“For Sky Park Farm, the proposals benefitted from being embedded in a long-term farm management plan.”

Tim added: “Both these schemes were breaking new ground and show how successful the planning process can be. This was the result of both applicants giving a full understanding to the Authority of how the diversification schemes worked in the context of the whole business, their overall philosophy and the landscape.”