Hailsham’s ‘Moo Man’ fears for future

Dairy farmer Steve Hook
Dairy farmer Steve Hook

A world famous Hailsham farmer said a new housing development in the town could put him out of business.

Dairy farmer Steve Hook, of Longleys Farm, said plans to build 135 houses on his best grazing land will destroy his livelihood.

“I have got no problem with housing if it does not impact on my business,” said Mr Hook, who was the star of the global hit documentary film called The Moo Man.

“Why should people lose their jobs because they want to make money out of houses?

“It should be done in a way which does not impact on rural businesses. The rural economy is in trouble as it is.”

Taylor Wimpey submitted an application for the land east of Battle Road and north of Harebeating Lane. It outlines plans for 135 homes including affordable housing.

But Mr Hook said losing the land would leave the business in a “pretty pear shaped” position.

“Basically we’ve got three areas of grazing land,” he said,

“One is on the upper part of the farm. That is where the best grazing land is – and where they want to build the houses.

“Another is not such good quality farmland, and the third area is Pevensey Levels marshland. In terms of producing milk it is not viable.”

He said if this land was lost, his 75 cow herd would have to be reduced to 50, and his milk production would go down to 41 per cent.

“That would kill the business because it would not be viable,” he said.

Longleys Farm is unique in what it does, selling raw milk.

“We’re pretty unique, we sell all of our milk from 75 cows, organic, unpasteurised milk.We make up 45 per cent of the UK’s raw milk market. We’re very pioneering in what we are doing with raw milk.

“Our farm is of national importance because of what we do with raw milk. We’re probably the only dairy farm in the country that is making money at the moment.

“We’re the last dairy farm in the parish of Hailsham.”

The farm employs eight full-time workers and 15 part-time workers, and Mr Hook said these jobs could be compromised if the farm loses the land.

The Hook family has a 250-year history of farming in East Sussex, but came to Longleys Farm 85 years ago. “My grandad came to work at this farm in the 1930s,” said Steve. “Phil Hook, my dad, asked the owner of the farm if he could manage a herd.

“He said he would give him a try. At the age of 16 dad was running the herd. He took on the farm in 1972 with his brother. Then I bought out my uncle David in 1991.

“In 2000 we became organic and in 2007 started selling unpasteurised milk. It has grown into a significant business.”

Now the firm, Hook and Son, sells its raw milk, cream and butter online, delivers it around the area, and goes to farmers’ markets in London to sell the produce.

To view the housing plans visit www.planning.wealden.gov.uk/ with the reference WD/2014/2617.

The deadline for comments is Friday, January 30.