TENANT FARMING leaders have welcomed the Land Court's decision in favour of an Edinburgh tenant farmer whose holding had been placed under threat by development plans approved by the Scottish Government – but suggested that the tenant's security of tenure should have been considered earlier in the process.

Jim Telfer occupies 56 acres of land under the Small Landholdings Act (Scotland) 1911 at Damhead, close to the Edinburgh bypass, and has been fighting efforts by his landlord to resume the holdings to make way for a £250 million film studio development which had already received planning consent from Scottish Ministers.

Last week, having ruled that the tenant was a small landholder under the 1911 Act, with security of tenure similar to crofters, the Land Court held that there were no grounds for resumption under the Act which only permits resumption for ‘the good of the estate’, such as for harbours, roads, housing, schools etc. The Land Court held that the estate did not need a film studio, pointing out that such a development would dispossess the tenant and his family of their landholding.

Commenting, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association chairman Christopher Nicholson said: "While the Land Court decision is welcome it also highlights flaws in the planning process which allow planning permission to be granted without having to take into account the occupation of the land by the tenant which is not a material planning consideration.

"Moreover, a tenant facing resumption is entitled to statutory compensation equating to only five times the annual rent, a pittance compared to the development value of the land. It is no wonder that landlords prefer to remove a tenant through the courts rather than pay fair compensation to the tenant reflecting the value of the land being resumed," said Mr Nicholson. "This is an issue STFA has raised on a number of occasions with Scottish Government and the Scottish Land Commission.

"For several years the Telfer family have been in the stressful position of facing the loss of their home and livelihood with pressure mounting from the actions of their landlord, the developers and planning officials to accept the resumption of their holdings," he added. "A small landholder of 56 acres should not have to go through an expensive court case to uphold his legal rights in the face of a multi-million pound development, and questions should be asked of the landlord, the developers and the planners as to why the tenant’s legal rights had not been respected throughout the process.

"While this decision will provide some relief for the Telfer family who have occupied the holding for over a 100 years, it must be remembered that the landlord can now appeal the decision to the Court of Session."