A SHERIFF yesterday rejected a claim by holiday hut owners that they have security of tenure in their fight against eviction from a country estate.

Nearly 100 hut owners are opposing what they claim are plans to change the estate of wooden shacks at Carbeth, Stirlingshire, into an up-market tourist development.

However, in an 11-page judgment, Sheriff John Dean granted an order in favour of Carbeth landlord, Mr Allan Barnes-Graham, compelling the subject of a two-day test case, Mr Bill McQueen, 68, treasurer of the Carbeth Hutters' Association, to remove himself, his family and his hut ''forthwith''.

Sheriff Dean said although many of the Carbeth huts could not be moved without considerable difficulty, he rejected Mr McQueen's argument that this gave him a right to stay.

He also rejected his pleas that the landlord's bid to reject him was contrary to natural justice and that his letting terms were unfair.

Sheriff Dean said he was persuaded by the evidence of Mr Trevor Scott, 75, chalet manager for the estate from 1985.

He said: ''Mr Scott was very clear that there was no security of tenure. It can be fairly assumed that he knew the terms of let better than any of the tenants. Accordingly I am of the opinion that the whole defence is without foundation.''

The judgment means that Mr Barnes-Graham can now call in bailiffs to evict Mr McQueen, who has owned his hut at Carbeth for 15 years and lived in it full time for the past two years.

It may also pave the way for the fast-track eviction of more than a dozen other hutters facing active proceedings at Stirling Sheriff Court.

Mr McQueen, whose case was conducted by an advocate paid for by an anonymous donor, said he would be appealing to the Court of Session, the House of Lords and ultimately the European Court of Human Rights.

He said: ''I'm very disappointed that I've lost. We have all always believed that we had security of tenure. We are victims of the most undemocratic law in Europe, and one of the first things we hope the Scottish Parliament will do is change it.''

The hutters had pinned their hopes on a 35-year-old document signed by the present landlord's father, Mr Patrick Barnes-Graham.

The document, discovered by members of the hutters' association, read: ''It is of the utmost importance to your security of tenure and to the security of tenure of the whole camp that you read and comply with the rules ... So long as you comply with the rules and conditions you have security of tenure.''

Mr McQueen, in evidence, said he had spent more than #5000 rebuilding his hut. He claimed it was a ''permanent fixture'' secured to foundations and he could not be evicted without good reason.

Mr Barnes-Graham, 50, said the estate had grown up after the First World War and had mushroomed during the 1940s, when his grandfather, also called Allan Barnes-Graham, was ''more or less instructed'' to let families stay there to escape the Clydebank Blitz.

He said he had inherited the estate in 1990 from a trust set up by his grandfather, and had immediately set about trying to reverse a huge fall in income that had occurred during the 1980s.

He had begun repairing roads and upgrading the estate in general, and had served a notice to quit on Mr McQueen obliging him to move out at Whitsun last year.

He said the notice to quit was based on a ''catch-all'' condition which allowed him to evict any tenant without having to give a reason. He denied that the memorandum to tenants, circulated by his father in 1963, meant that only ''bad tenants'' could be evicted.

Nearly 100 hut owners at Carbeth have been withholding payments in protest at rent rises of up to 42% and what they say are ''unreasonable'' service charges.

They say it is unfair that land laws which protect hut owners in England and Wales do not apply in Scotland. In September, Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar said the Government was considering legislation to give rights to owners of property on leased land.

Mr Chris Ballance, secretary of the Carbeth Hutters' Association, said the protesters would continue their fight.

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