Hebden Goat: Makers of Yorkshire cheese that Hugh Jackman bought cease production after 'being denied planning permission to expand'

A woman who makes her own cheese from a herd of goats who roam the hills above Hebden Bridge has stopped trading, just days after actor Hugh Jackman bought one of the products.
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Gillian Clough, a former NHS radiographer, set up Tenacres Cheese in 2015 after she and her husband bought a smallholding.

She makes cheese from milk from her Anglo Nubian goats, which she began breeding as a hobby. She sold two varieties; Gat and Hebden Goat, the latter of which she developed with one of her main stockists, The Courtyard Dairy in Austwick, near Settle.

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Mrs Clough only supplied cheese seasonally, from the spring to autumn, and also works as a lecturer at Bradford University. She works out of a small dairy on the ground floor of the family home.

Gillian Clough, of Tenacres Cheese, Hebden Bridge, with her World Cheese AwardGillian Clough, of Tenacres Cheese, Hebden Bridge, with her World Cheese Award
Gillian Clough, of Tenacres Cheese, Hebden Bridge, with her World Cheese Award

The Courtyard Dairy posted on Facebook: “Hebden Goat will be no more by the end of this year. It's especially sad as this was a viable business that was looking to grow and employ more people. It sold all its current production and had lots of people waiting in the wings wanting to stock it.

"But it has been hindered by the fact they couldn't get planning on their building next to their fields, which would have allowed them to increase their herd to 40 goats and continue in a viable fashion.

"It gave Hebden Bridge an identity in a local product made there, created jobs , made a unique product that is a true taste of the Yorkshire Pennines and supported small family farming, rare goats all out at pasture. All this will be lost. It is a fantastic cheese.

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"At least Gillian will go out on a bang with Supreme Champion at this year’s Artisan Cheese Awards. Thanks Gillian and Tim - we're pleased to have been on this journey with you and been involved in helping create a truly unique cheese. And thanks to those of you who supported Hebden Goat and ate it over the last nine years.”

Earlier this week the family-owned specialist cheese shop confirmed that Hollywood star Hugh Jackman had sampled Hebden Goat and several other local varieties during his visit to the business while holidaying in Yorkshire.

Mrs Clough won gold at the World Cheese Awards in 2017 and her stockists also include Leeds independent cheesemongers George & Joseph.

In 2019, Calderdale Council refused her application for a three-bedroom farm workers’ dwelling and dairy building on land near her farm. The main reason for the planning officers’ decision was that the site is part of the Green Belt, and special circumstances submitted by the Cloughs did not outweigh the potential for harm.

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In the application, Mrs Clough had said that the management of the livestock, which also includes her husband’s rare-breed sheep, would be ‘untenable’ if it had to continue remotely, and that she also had security concerns after break-ins at her agricultural buildings.

She added that the business had potential to raise its annual wholesale income from £46,000 to £72,000 if the proposal was approved.

In a statement, Mrs Clough said: “My husband and I bought land to farm as a hobby and I started keeping dairy goats and making cheese for household use. As the cheese improved and more goats meant more milk, my husband built me a small dairy in the basement of our house which is about ¼ mile from the land.

"The cheese continued to improve, winning many awards with demand outstripping the limits on production the small dairy presented. The style of cheese requires frequent and interspersed activity during production so with no suitable buildings nearby to build a new dairy, in 2018 I put in a planning application for a combined dwelling and dairy on our holding at the edge of the Green Belt. We felt living on-site would also assist with the increasing demands of animal husbandry, particularly during kidding seasons. This application was withdrawn and resubmitted in 2019 with the help of a planning consultant and including letters of support from The Courtyard Dairy, Neal’s Yard Dairy, Paxton & Whitfield and Czewik Fine Wine & Cheese.

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"The council’s planning officer recommended the application should be approved by the planning committee. Prior to the planning officer making his decision there had been a number of objections containing defamatory accusations, or those of a misogynistic nature. Following my complaint these were removed, but then republished in the week prior to the committee meeting. The committee consisted of older men and one female councillor – the only councillor to vote in favour – with no councillor asking any questions on the difficulties my business faced.

"Prior to submitting an appeal, I sought the help of a solicitor who issued the council with a ‘take down notice’ and the council agreed to permanently remove many of the objections from public view.

"In October 2019 Hebden Goat was awarded Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards and this information, together with a letter of support from my MP (Craig Whittaker) was included in documents submitted with the appeal. The appeal was dismissed with the decision notice written in a tone insinuating the application was not genuine and containing multiple errors, leaving me with the impression the Inspector had not considered my supporting documentation. Taking the matter any further through the High Court, my only remaining option, was/is prohibitively expensive for small scale farmers - something I’m sure the Planning Inspectorate is well aware of.

“I have continued to run my business, winning Supreme Champion at this year’s Artisan Cheese Awards but without the ability to make more cheese, I can’t generate sufficient income to employ people in the dairy. This means working seven days a week, 52 weeks a year – if I take time off the goats still need feeding and the farm labourers still need paying, and I can no longer face living this way.”