THOUSANDS of residents are supporting a business owner's petition against a decision to refuse a proposed new cafe.

The owners of Crouch Ridge Vineyard in Althorne, Samantha and Ross Lonergan, hope to offer a café experience for visitors on site at the vineyard's existing shop, visitor centre and tasting room.

The bosses argue it would complement the existing business, provide employment and also provide income for other businesses as food and drink served would be grown and sourced in the area.

An application submitted to Maldon District Council by the owners sought retrospective planning permission for change of use on the site to allow for a café, alongside the existing tasting room and shop.

Plans included an area of decking, two covered areas, extractor and air conditioning units, a gas tank, container and internal alterations.

Works have already been carried out for the plans.

But a planning officer refused the bid for a number of reasons including it "not being demonstrated to the satisfaction" of the planning authority there is a "justifiable and functional" need for the activity within the rural location.

Concerns were also raised about noise, adequate on-site parking and a "cluttered appearance" in the rural area.

Crouch Ridge Vineyard owner Samantha Lonergan said: "Unfortunately the planning officer has made certain assumptions, with no evidence, and it would appear she has only taken consideration of the misinformation submitted by Althorne Parish Council and Althorne Parish Councillors personal views."

She also notes similar vineyards and wine businesses in the area have been given permission to have cafés despite being in a rural location.

On the car parking on site, Samantha says they've already allocated an overflow car park on the ground.

"The ‘outside clutter’ as the planning officer calls our waste bins, gas tank and storage container are hidden to visitors by a fence in keeping with the existing barn," Samantha adds.

After their application was refused, Samantha launched a petition against the decision for residents to show their support for the proposals.

More than 2,300 people have signed the petition which can be found online at