Claims 1,000 acre farm can be run by two people challenged

Andrew Meikle hopes to take over the family business alongside his brother when his dad retires.

Claims 1,000 acre farm in East Lothian can be run by two people challenged LDRS

Claims a 1,000-acre farm can be run by just two people have been challenged by the family operating it.

Andrew Meikle hopes to take over the family business alongside his brother when his dad retires from working their farm near Gladsmuir, East Lothian.

However an independent report by an agriculture consultant into the need for a new house for his family to live on the farm, questions the number of labourers needed to work it and whether it is necessary for him to stay there.

The report by Laurence Gould Partnership was requested by East Lothian councillors after Mr Meikle appealed to the council’s Local Review Body to decide his application for a new house, due to officers taking too long to decide.

The review body is meeting on Monday next week, during council recess, to ensure it can make a ‘timely’ decision on the appeal.

Members will be given a copy of the report, in which the consultant disputes the methodology used by another firm which says the farm requires 4.1 units of labour to operate.

And he points out there are already four properties on the farm, two of which are rented to long term tenants, asking whether Mr Meikle could not move into one of the existing properties.

In their report, the consultant says: “The reality is that modern arable businesses operate- with much lower labour requirements than the levels calculated by the methodology.

“I would expect a business of this scope and size would require around 2 labour units.”

Mr Meikle’s agents said the move to the farm would allow him to support his brother, who is the main operator of the farm but that the consultants’ view that two people are enough was wrong.

They said: “This does not take into account staff holidays or sickness, or a mental health/safety view on the business labour requirements.”

And they challenged the suggestion that a property on the farm could be used to house the family, adding: “It would not be reasonable to expect the applicant to evict his long term tenants, especially in the midst of the cost of living and housing crisis, where there is already a shortage of affordable housing with the local area.”

Hoprig Mains Farm was the home of the founder of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute Catherine Blair who lived there at the start of the 20th century.

As well as establishing the ‘Rural’ in Scotland, Catherine gave refuge to   suffragette prisoners hiding from the law at the farm,  when they were released under the notorious Cat and Mouse Act which saw them sent home from prison when they became unwell from refusing to eat but jailed again once they had recovered.

The appeal will be heard by the review body at a virtual meeting on Monday.

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