East Sussex farm claim housing developer is 'morally wrong' as plans for 180 homes threaten to close business

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One of the last dairy farms in Hailsham is at risk of closing for good if plans for a 180-home development on their land is approved.

Hook & Son, one of the biggest producers of Raw Milk in the UK, would see 40 acres of its best grazing land lost if Fernham Homes see their plans approved by Wealden District Council.

Steve Hook, head farmer at the holding, said: “The problem we have is that we don’t own all the farm. The land owner retained 40 acres that we couldn't buy and we rent that land. Its that land the owners are looking to sell to a developer to put 180 houses on.

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"We can’t compete with the developer in terms of buying the land. The loss of those fields to the farm will have a massive impact as they are used for our milking herd for their grazing. I need to have grazing within walking distance for the cows from the milking parlours, as they are milked twice a day and they are the closest fields.”

In their application, Fernham Homes said their development on fields off Battle Road would provide a significant boost to affordable housing supply in the area, whilst also leaving 60% for nature enhancement, leisure spaces, mitigation areas, growing and wildlife.In their application, Fernham Homes said their development on fields off Battle Road would provide a significant boost to affordable housing supply in the area, whilst also leaving 60% for nature enhancement, leisure spaces, mitigation areas, growing and wildlife.
In their application, Fernham Homes said their development on fields off Battle Road would provide a significant boost to affordable housing supply in the area, whilst also leaving 60% for nature enhancement, leisure spaces, mitigation areas, growing and wildlife.

In their application, Fernham Homes said their development on fields off Battle Road would provide a significant boost to affordable housing supply in the area, whilst also leaving 60% for nature enhancement, leisure spaces, mitigation areas, growing and wildlife.

In a statement, the developer said: “Fernham Homes has submitted an outline planning application with all matters (except access) reserved for the demolition of an existing bungalow at 152 Battle Road and the erection of up to 180 new homes including 5% custom and/or self build homes and 63 Affordable Homes together with open space, areas for play space and associated works.

“The application is being considered by Wealden District Council and is due for determination later this year.

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“The land that is subject to the planning application is privately owned and currently let on a short term licence arrangement with local farmer Hook and Sons that is due to come to an end in September 2023.”

Hook & Son, one of the biggest producers of Raw Milk in the UK, would see 40 acres of its best grazing land lost if Fernham Homes see their plans approved by Wealden District Council.Hook & Son, one of the biggest producers of Raw Milk in the UK, would see 40 acres of its best grazing land lost if Fernham Homes see their plans approved by Wealden District Council.
Hook & Son, one of the biggest producers of Raw Milk in the UK, would see 40 acres of its best grazing land lost if Fernham Homes see their plans approved by Wealden District Council.

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For Steve though, his only interaction with the developers was at the public consultation at the start of the year, where he raised his concerns about the effects of the scheme on his livelihood.

According to the head of Hook & Son, Fernham Homes met with him after the meeting to discuss how they could mitigate any potential damage to the farm, but then submitted plans without any of these ideas in place.

Steve said: "I think it is morally wrong that a developer puts up houses and damages a business and doesn't do the ethical thing in terms of acting up on local food business and local jobs. They just want to develop houses and don't really care about the impact."

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Hook & Son has been running for more than 250 years and is the last dairy farm in Hailsham. It is an award-winning farm for its produce, and featured in The Moo Man, a documentary which was showcased by the United Nations in 2014 in the UN 'Year of the Family Farm', as well as featuring in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Steve says this housing project put jobs on the farm at risk and could see Hailsham lose a ‘stand-out jewel in its crown’.

He told SussexWorld: "I think we are in danger of setting a really bad precedent if an organic farm which is producing local food for local people is allowed to go for development. It will become and open field for developers to go where they want.

"I will have to reduce my milking herd size because i won’t have sufficient grazing, so I will have to lose about 30 cows and that will make the farm not viable. The impact will be 20 people will lose their full time jobs and six people will lose their part time jobs. Local doorstep rounds in Hailsham,Polegate, Eastbourne, Bexhill, Hastings, Battle, Heathfield and Seaford would stop. Our stalls at Farmers markets in London would also stop. It would be the end of what is a stand-out jewel in Hailsham’s crown.”

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The Farm is encouraging people to write to Wealden District Council to object to the proposed development before midnight on Friday, August 11, to help prevent these proposals going ahead. So far, there have been more than 350 objections.

To find out more about the plans and how the comment on them click here.