‘Malicious critics trying to shut us down’ says Holmfirth vineyard owner

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THE owners of a Yorkshire vineyard which hosted a record 30,000 visitors this year have spoken out against “malicious” people who they claim are trying to damage their business.

The Holmfirth Vineyard was established as a wine-making business and now attracts thousands of visitors who take wine tasting tours, dine in the restaurant and stop in the self-catering accommodation.

Joint owner Rebecca Sheveling said yesterday that since the business was established six years ago a small number of locals had “tried to shut us down” by making various complaints.

She spoke out following the latest row which has seen anonymous leaflets posted to homes complaining about the construction of a viewing platform which was created ahead of the Tour de France Grand Depart in July.

The owners said they put up a golf ball-style marquee on a gravel base after clearing the project with the planning authority but in September the council issued an enforcement notice, saying the work needed permission.

The business has since removed the marquee and put in an application for permission for the ground works at the viewing area.

Anonymous objectors have since posted leaflets headed calling the marquee an “eyesore”.

The leaflet urges people to object to the plans, saying: “These people continue to show disregard for our neighbourhood in the interest of commerce.”

One of the leaflets dropped through resident Katy Nightingale’s letterbox.

She tweeted: “Worrying note through door against plans @Holmfirthwines. People lack ability to see benefits these small businesses bring to local economy.”

Mrs Nightingale, who lives on the opposite side of the valley to the vineyard, said: “I totally support them, We can see the vineyard and the building and it’s not an eyesore at all. It’s nice to see the land being put to good use and it is great to have small businesses in the valley bringing tourists in. I find it frustrating that people are opposed to change.”

She described those behind the leaflet as “faceless”.

Mrs Sheveling said planning permission had been “relaxed” before the Tour de France so they had put up a temporary marquee and created a gravel base which involved moving some soil.

She said locals had contacted them in support after the anonymous leaflet had gone out.

The marquee complained about had been taken down and complaints in the leaflet about new “roads” being created were actually gravel tracks, she said.

She claimed the criticisms were “malicious” and were the latest attack on the business which in the past had included verbal abuse.

“They want to scare us off; we are not going anywhere - we are used to it now. The community are rallying around us without being asked, which is tremendous.”

A council spokesman said: “An enforcement notice was issued on 4 September 2014 in relation to works undertaken to form a viewing area and build a structure without planning permission. The structure has since been removed but the viewing platform remains. The council has now received a planning application which covers this activity and which will be considered in due course. To date, three individual representations have been made.”