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Farmer fears for future of his home

PUBLISHED: 11:19 01 February 2008 | UPDATED: 19:36 05 July 2010

FARM CONCERNS: Billy Hook from Mill Farm Somerleyton has lived and worked on the farm for 60 years. Estate manager Hugh Crossley has deceided he would like to build houses on the farm.

FARM CONCERNS: Billy Hook from Mill Farm Somerleyton has lived and worked on the farm for 60 years. Estate manager Hugh Crossley has deceided he would like to build houses on the farm.

ONE of Somerleyton's longest standing residents may be under threat of losing both his livelihood and his home if plans to divide up land for housing go ahead.

ONE of Somerleyton's longest standing residents may be under threat of losing both his livelihood and his home if plans to divide up land for housing go ahead.

Mill Farm, which is run by Billy Hook, has been earmarked for possible redevelopment and he claims an agreement he has to pass his 58-acre farm down to his son has been refused.

He believes it is because Somerleyton estate manager Hugh Crossley wants the farmland for housing and that despite having around 400 cattle, Mr Hook has been told Mill Farm is not a “viable unit”.

Mr Crossley said that by renting land for his cattle it keeps Mr Hook economically viable but his tenancy of 58 acres, which is not viable in its own right, allows him to challenge the legitimacy of its succession.

Mr Hook has been farming at Mill Farm since he came out of his National Service at 21. He was offered a deal and decided to accept it with what he claims is a full agricultural tenancy agreement, which he believes allows him to pass his farm down to future generations of his family, firstly his son Bruce.

But before Christmas Mr Hook's world came crashing down after he tried to hand over the farm.

“Many of the villagers have told me they are absolutely shocked and they will do anything they can to help. They like coming past the farm and seeing the calves on the meadow, it's part and parcel of Somerleyton.”

Mr Hook claimed Mr Crossley had offered his son another parcel of land as part of a farm business tenancy.

“There would be no security whatsoever. I've already got two of those tenancies on marshland where I graze my cattle and notice can be served at any time.”

Mr Hook's land has been put forward for re-development within the Waveney Development Framework, which looks for possible locations for future homes.

“I will fight Hugh Crossley in all the law courts in England because morally I believe I'm in the right. I've lived here all my life and I've always been a battler, with a small farm you have to.”

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said a Further Issues and Options document sought views on land that was suggested to meet future development needs in Waveney, up to 2021.

“The council sought views on whether the suggested use was suitable for that site in principle,” said the spokesman. “Most of the sites suggested were from developers and landowners and many of them will not be needed. The responses will help us to draft a preferred options document which will be available for further public consultation in the summer.”

Mr Crossley, who has taken over management of the estate from his father Lord Somerleyton, said he put several sites forward but none of them were at actual planning stage.

“Mill Farm is within the village and amounts to a perfectly good house, but a very poor collection of Victorian and older farm buildings, which are completely inadequate for the amount of cattle Mr Hook keeps and thus has been significantly reduced in quality in recent years.

“The point here is not to eject the tenant, but to re-negotiate the lease, which in the end serves both parties better. I have been negotiating a far better deal for Bruce [Hook] for over a year and a half which makes Bruce hugely more viable and more able to bring in extra money through sub contracting his services to us and others.”

Mr Crossley added that they had already rented modern buildings to Mr Hook's son as part of a phased re-structuring of his holding at Waveney Grange in what would be a simple swap. We are negotiating because we generally want to give Bruce a better lifestyle,” added Mr Crossley.

He said Mr Hook was on the end of a succession tenancy with the right to pass it on to his son until it dissolves and becomes a standard tenancy.

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