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April 27, 2010

Land reform is “exceeding expectations”

For some time now, we have been arguing that the momentum has all but disappeared from the land reform agenda.   LPL has commissioned some research to assess exactly how much progress has been achieved since the last Land Reform Action Plan was published (2003).  At the recent Land Reform conference in Inverness, Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for the Environment, painted a picture that few in the audience recognized

Press and Journal 23/03/2010

Scotland’s land reform legislation is ensuring the long-term sustainability of communities the length and breadth of the country.

More than 60 communities bodies have submitted over 112 applications to purchase land and almost 80 applications have been approved since the Land Reform Bill was passed in 2004.

Successful community buy-outs include:
    * Comrie in Perthshire where a disused prisoner of war camp has been used to provide allotments, playing fields, storage and business units
    * Silver burn in Midlothian where a disused water tank has been turned into a community centre
    * Neilson in Renfrewshire where a former bank is now a community hub

Speaking during a conference on land reform hosted by Highland Council, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Community buyouts of land and other assets have played a central role in empowering and creating long term sustainability for communities throughout Scotland.

“Having the ability to direct their own future has promoted community confidence, developed participation and cohesion as well as ensuring a sense of pride and long term sustainability.

“While the legislation has been successful so far, it is important that we maintain an open dialogue. We must consider lessons learned and whether new approaches should be adopted.

The issue of funding of community buyouts of land has been a hot topic in recent months and I would urge communities to take a creative approach.

“While the Big Lottery is the largest funder it is not the only one. Using a number of different funders to secure land is a very successful one which more should consider.”

The Community right to buy in Part 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 provides the opportunity for community bodies representing rural areas in Scotland with less than 10,00 head of population to register an interest in and buy that registered land once it is offered for sale. It provides community Bodies with a pre-emptive right to buy the land in which they have registered a community interest.

Community bodies have so far registered an interest in land including fields, woodlands and a range of other assets such as buildings, such as churches, a school and a community interest. The right to buy requires a willing seller. A community may in fact register its community interest and that land not come up for sale. A registration continues for five years and community bodies have the opportunity to re-register that interest. The first communities to extend their interest will do so in late 2009.

Statistics on the community right to buy are:
    * There have been 113 registrations of which 79 (or 70.5 per cent) have been approved by Scottish Ministers
    * To date 23 applications have had the chance to go ahead and purchase land. Of these 7 have been successful and a further 2 were concluded outwith the Act. A further one is currently concluding the transfer of land
    * Of the applications approved by Ministers, the right to buy has been triggered on 27 applications (24 per cent)

There are 5 rights to buy proceeding at present:
    * Camuscross (Isle of Skye) (Allt Duisdale reservoir)
    * South Lochaber (former Glencoe Hospital)
    * The Isle of Bute (Rhubodach Forest)
    * Benbecula (parcels of MOD land)
    * South Kintryre (Machrihanish airbase)