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A bird's eye view of the development. © Keppie

Letter: Stop Farmer Eviction

Over 3,000 people from the film industry have petitioned in support of the Pentland Film Studio Development effectively signing the eviction notice for the local farmer and his family on the grounds that a studio like this is too good an opportunity to pass up on for Scotland. Farmer Telfer will have to leave his privately owned family home, business, livelihood and way of life of over a century if this development is to go ahead.

Those in favour have dismissed the community’s comments on loss of agricultural land and biodiversity as insignificant – and would see heritage buildings demolished and green space trapped under 28.6 metre high buildings and concrete. Our objection is aligned with the vision that underpins our local Neibourhood Action Plan, heralded by the Midlothian Community Planning Partnership. The Neighbourhood Plan supports Scottish Government ambitions for a fairer, greener, healthier, safer and wealthier Scotland including government policies and climate targets. The same cannot be true for the Pentland Proposal, those behind the proposal, with no connection to the local land or the people are pushing forwards at all costs and accusing the community of being ‘loyal’ by standing up for their farmers rights.

The community are adamant that there are other sites more appropriate for this development and with better access and potential for industry use such as being able to accommodate the long hours that the film industry works, which the current site at Damhead, Straiton cannot accommodate.

The community and those in objection to this development claim if Scotland wants to continue leading in Climate Targets, sustainability and resilience it needs to start looking to how it operates on the ground, starting with preserving good agricultural land. If private developers are enabled by our government to use Compulsory Purchase as a tool to manoeuvre the little man out of the way then NO ONE IS SAFE.

Indeed, no one on privately owned land or property is safe until our government stops siding with the developers. Opposing this development is bigger than just one man keeping his home and livelihood. Sadly it is not a precedent. It should be a principle that our rights to enjoy our homes and livelihoods should trump that of the externally driven developers and that our land is more important than private development. It is again an example of how the planning process is skewed in favour of the developers, and to those of power and influence.

The application is at a critical point with public comment closing on the 30th December. Telfer’s community, farmers, small holders and supporters are rallying behind him to change the outcome. It’s not too late to add you voice: SIGN THE PETITION AND SAVE JIM’S FARM!


As a member of the Damhead Community, a small holder, farmer, practicing artist and photographer and a neighbour of Jim Telfer I hope I can offer some clarity on the current situation with my local farmer, our community at Damhead and our intentions.

Whilst this development is obviously a much needed development for Scotland, the development and the way in which the planning process has progressed has indeed caused serious concerns. The location is also one of invested interests- albeit for both sides, from one for a studio and for the other our community, the reasons on our petition but in perhaps more detail below and in our Damhead and District Neighbourhood Plan.

The community of Damhead have a history rooted in agricultural practice and its research and our community have developed a long term vision and strategy to improve and develop this, working with our local council and aligning ourselves with Scottish Governments targets for food sustainability and climate change. We are very proud of the incredible network of small holdings in the area currently practicing a mix of traditional and organic farming. Call these contemporary crofts if you will- it is absolutely a way of life in this area and we are committed to it.

That is why we are fighting this development, and this would stand were it a supermarket, office or shopping center. We are very aware of the encroaching development already taking place from all sides of Damhead and that makes this pocket unique in its greenness and activeness.

We are fighting and will continue to fight for our agricultural land, our biodiversity and heritage in order to continue and establish ourselves with land bases industry and local land based jobs. As I said our heritage is that of farming and Jim Telfer represents the oldest farm stead in our community.

He is a member of our community and plays a huge role in the link between our past and future and we are fighting for his rights as a member of our community and as a citizen. As a farmer and a citizen he does have rights and under no circumstances would an eviction be favored by any in our community. Needless to say we are against any eviction of any member of our community or society for profit.

The situation regarding tenancy and ownership, as you can imagine is incredibly complex and of course is stipulated in the specifics of his tenancy, which is 100 years old.

Our community stands to loose everything if this development goes ahead. We will loose valuable agricultural land, heritage, our green spaces and network of farms, our biodiversity but also our rural atmosphere and way of life. This development is out of proportion in scale to our local landscape and is not an appropriate addition because of its land use change. We are fighting for all of this, against land use change and for our neighbour and friend.

Should this development go ahead Jim will loose not only his family home, but his livelihood and way of life. When you farm you do not invest in tomorrow but in the earth and the next generation and he will loose his entire life’s investment.

And that is why we fight.

Damhead has constructed a cohesive vision contained in our community planning document (Damhead and District Neighbourhood Plan) demonstrating the potential this incredible landscape has and the role it will play in a fairer, greener and more sustainable future.