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April 4, 2012

It’s down to the funders now

The community right to buy process was never designed to be easy but when combined with aggressive corporate lawyers and less than helpful civil servants, it’s a minor miracle one community in East Lothian didn’t throw in the towel.  Despite everything, they stuck to the task and their long term pursuit of a vitally important parcel of land may be about to pay off. Whether or not they succeed will depend largely on whether potential funders can get their act together in time.


Seton Fields East is on the market for £900,000 and the local community are hoping to secure funding to buy it. The ballot of residents to assess whether there was sufficient community support produced a remarkable turnout vote and an even more remarkable level of support for the proposal


Total number of votes cast:  3,747 (56.5% turnout)

“Yes” votes:  3,599 (96.1% of total)

“No” votes:  148 (3.9% of total)

There were nil spoilt ballots or proxy votes cast.

Seton Fields East comprise 113 acres of highest grade arable, lying at the heart of the three rural villages and surrounding area which makes up our community of interest.  It was independently valued at £875,000 and occupies a most significant position in coastal East Lothian – and in the ambition of local people (as you can see from the ballot results!) to take community ownership of a great green asset.  Plans include mixed agricultural use, with open wooded landscape and community orchards on part of the land, with enhanced all-ability access and opportunities for education and volunteering.

This was the largest ballot for a CRTB ever held in Scotland, so not only a “First” for East Lothian and the lowland Central Belt.

We are delighted that the new Land Fund has been launched, and look forward to being able to formally submit a grant application when that route has been established.   Our timetable for raising capital funds is very tight, and we must conclude missives by July 4th.

Bob McNeil, from Seton Fields Community Company, said: “It will link up the three communities by pleasant walks – you will be able to go from on to the other in open fields and woodland.”

Unlike other community land buyouts, local residents will not have to contribute towards the cost of the land.

Phillipa Graham, from the group, said: “We are confident we don’t need the members of the community to put their hands in their pockets. We’re looking at a package of funding options including the newly announced Scottish Land Fund and there are a couple of other funding sources that we are looking at.”

The group have until June to secure funding for the purchase.