Pairc landlord Barry Lomas says his court action against the hostile land buyout bid is a “defence against a deliberately targeted, hostile and political attack on a landlord who seeks to protect the reasonable value of its assets.”
Mr Lomas has began two legal cases amid a deeply bitter fight to stop the community buyout of the 20,000-acre estate in South Lochs on Lewis.
He has commence proceedings in Stornoway Sheriff Court. against the Scottish Government’s granting a contentious right-to-buy for the community to take over the land – plus the potentially profitable right to build a £200 million windfarm – against his wishes.
In a second legal thrust, Mr Lomas intends to continue a judicial review in the Court of Session against the Scottish Government alleging that the Land Reform Act breaches individuals’ human rights under European laws.
The legal dispute over what would be Scotland’s first hostile crofting land buyout will centre on the legality of crucial untried aspects of the Land Reform Act as well as arguments over the process for the Pairc case.
Mr Lomas claims that Angus McDowall, the chair of community body Pairc Trust which is driving the buyout, personally stands to gain significant benefits from the wind farm.
He maintained Mr McDowall stifled discussion over the crofters’ rent from the windfarm and allege he “misled” the community.
The landlord slammed the Scottish Government for granting the forced right-to-buy the day before the Scottish Parliament broke up for the elections – while an important court action was unfinished.
Mr Lomas said: “Angus McDowall, significant beneficiary of the Pairc Windfarm, Pairc Trust Chairman, one who on 04 March 2003 refused to allow Pairc Estate to encourage discussion amongst crofters on the division of Pairc Windfarm income and continues to deny Pairc Estate its landlord’s share, who knowingly misled the electorate in the 2009 ballot pamphlet, continues to object to Pairc Estate using its legal rights to protect its assets from removal without consent.”
He added: “Ministers withheld the 2005 application decision for nearly six years until with one day to go before the dissolution of Parliament announced the decision on this and the two 2010 applications, even though a Judicial Review was still in process.
“The legislation has permitted Pairc Estate to make an appeal to the Sheriff Court, so this and the Judicial Review will be used as a defence against a deliberately targeted, hostile and political attack on a landlord who seeks to protect the reasonable value of its assets.”
Mr Lomas continued: “Meanwhile, Pairc Estate is working within the legislation to assist the replacement independent valuer, following the withdrawal of the first valuer due to a conflict of interest.
Angus McDowall said: Pairc Trust directors “totally reject the scurrilous and libellous accusations made by the landlord in his increasingly desperate efforts to divide and rule the community.”
A statement from Pairc Trust suggests Mr Lomas is deliberately advancing a “misunderstanding” because Mr McDowall and some other directors stand to financially gain as they, as crofters, would be entitled to a share of the hefty rentals paid by SSE to build the windfarm on their common grazings.
The forced land sale legislation has never been used in anger since it was introduced by the former Labour administration. Elements were seriously flawed which badly hampered the Pairc bid and required corrective legislation.
Almost 400 people currently live on Pairc Estate, which, covers 26,800 acres in total (a similar land area to the City of Edinburgh), has 11 townships and 208 crofts.
Only the common grazings moorland is included in the buyout bid as the multitude of crofts and village housing is too complicated to accurately map at this stage.
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