Old Pentland Farm: thousands rally to stop farmer’s eviction

James Telfer is in danger of losing Old Pentland Farm in Penicuik to make way for the film studio. Picture: Jacek Hubner

James Telfer is in danger of losing Old Pentland Farm in Penicuik to make way for the film studio. Picture: Jacek Hubner

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THOUSANDS of people have rallied behind a farmer who faces losing his family’s home of 100 years to make way for new film studios.

A petition, set up by Straiton resident Nathalie Holbrook, calls on the plans to be rejected to save 82-year-old tenant farmer James Telfer from eviction.

We as a nation should be looking after this kind of land and we should be looking after our farmers.

Julian Holbrook

His family have been farming the 60-acre Old Pentland Farm since 1915 and the petition has gathered almost 2000 names in one week.

The landowners want to sell the farm to developers behind the proposed 106-acre Pentland Studios.

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 think that local people should be involved with the way it is shaped. This is our voice within the community and Jim and his farm are a part of that.

“He is the last farmer in the area on a working farm. His family has 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 Telfer’s family first moved on to the land when George V was on the throne and allied troops were fighting in the trenches at Gallipoli.

His daughter Mary Begbie, 50, said the family was delighted to have found so much support.

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 planning bid is now in the hands of the Scottish Government after Midlothian Council failed to make a ruling on the application within a 16-week deadline.

Mr Holbrook said he hoped ministers would take the strength of support for Mr Telfer into account.

He said: 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.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com