Eviction threat denied

Farmer Jim Telfer and his daughter Mary Begbie at his Old Pentland Farm in Damhead, with locals fighting against his eviction. Pictured in January 2016.

Farmer Jim Telfer and his daughter Mary Begbie at his Old Pentland Farm in Damhead, with locals fighting against his eviction. Pictured in January 2016.

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The owner of land earmarked for a film studio has denied trying to evict a tenant farmer from his home so that the development can proceed.

Nick Gibsone, whose family own farmland at Straiton included in the plans for the £140 million Pentland Film Studios, responded to renewed allegations made by the campaign group trying to stop the project.

A Scottish Government reporter is currently considering the planning application for the 106 acre site.

It was ‘called in’ by Holyrood after the initial planning decision on the greenbelt site was delayed by Midlothian Council.

With a decision expected imminently, the Protect Damhead Greenbelt group reiterated claims it made earlier in the year that farmer Jim Telfer had been threatened with eviction.

Mr Gibsone hit back: “The allegations are outrageous, wrong and defamatory of us as a family.

‘‘We will be taking legal advice immediately.

“We have never issued any threats to anyone and have always sought to do the right thing.

‘‘We have made a number of offers in good faith to the farmer in question who farms approximately 56 acres of a small holding.

“These offers include him and his wife remaining in the farmhouse and also having land to farm should they wish.

“We have also offered a substantial financial package that could be increased should they choose to leave the farm.

“There is no question of them being forced to leave their home.

‘‘There are a number of offers on the table and also an offer of independent mediation.

“The campaign group has blatantly misrepresented the situation for its own ends which are to stop the film studio development at all costs.”

However, this week, the Protect Damhead Greenbelt group stood by its claims.

And it also criticised the landowner’s statement this week.’

It said it had eyewitnesses to a bid to remove the Telfer family in 2013.

A spokseman said: “The landowner did seek to remove the Telfer family by resumption of the small holding in 2013 and there are eyewitnesses of this event. Jim Telfer was requested by Nick Gibsone to sign a document to release the ground from agricultural use.

“The Deloitte report dated 29 July 2015 states ‘Purchase missives although concluded, are conditional upon securing the Planning Permission in Principle (PPP) and the current owner providing vacant possession’.

“Whilst an offer was made much later in 2016, not a single detail of the planning application and appeal currently with Scottish Government recognizes this claim by the landowner for the landholder to ‘remain in the farmhouse and also have land to farm should they wish’.

“It remains to be seen that the Telfer family would be removed from the site if this development proposal is to go ahead. Indeed the proposed Studio Tour building in the application is to be built directly on the Telfer farmhouse.

“The Telfer family have no intention of abandoning their home or lease for the site and the Scottish Land Court would have to rule to remove the Telfer Family from the Pentland Film Studio site. Recent statements by the landowner only seek to diminish the local community and the campaign.”