Locals fight studio plans for Midlothian farmer

Tennant farmer James Telfer who is in danger of losing Old Pentland Farm to make way for a film studio.
Tennant farmer James Telfer who is in danger of losing Old Pentland Farm to make way for a film studio.

A petition objecting to the development of film studios on agricultural land at Straiton has been submitted to the Scottish Government.

The petition, set up by local resident Nathalie Holbrook, calls on the plans to be rejected to save farmer James Telfer from eviction. His family have been farming the 60-acre Old Pentland Farm since 1915.

The petition received 1,600 signatures in just one week.

Nathalie’s father, and Damhead Community Council spokesperson, Julian Holbrook, said: “Jim’s farm is right in the centre of Damhead district, and we as a community have a vision of the future and that local people should be involved with the way it is shaped in the future.

“He is the last farmer in the area on a working farm. His family have been there for 100 years or so, so he is part of the local culture.

“We are looking to re-engage with the area. As a community we want to encourage land-based activities.

“Jim and his family are just a symbol of that.

“This is all good-quality farmland. We as a nation should be looking after that kind of land and we should be looking after our farmers.

“We shouldn’t be moving them for anything, in this case a film studio.”

Mr Holbrook emphasised the importance of the petition, saying: “Things can be different. The petition is a way of expressing our voice.

“More people would have signed it but a lot of people are on holiday just now.

“My daughter hasn’t had a Christmas, she has been so busy with this. It’s not a good time of the year for a petition.

“We are not necessarily against the film studio. It just doesn’t have to be on top of a farm. We need this land, this farming. We should be doing more to help farmers. We can’t keep importing food.

“Everyone has said ‘no’. We don’t want the film studios here, it just doesn’t fit with anything here.

“We want to be more involved with change, but change driven locally.”

Mary Begbie (50), is the daughter of Mr Telfer (82). She told of her family’s delight at the petition.

She said: “I would like to express my gratitude towards the residents of Damhead and Old Pentland who, in giving their support over this period, have reaffirmed to me the importance and strength of our local communities.”

The decision on the planned film studios will be taken this year by ministers.