December 4, 2013
The need for a third party
The current land reform legislation permits crofting communities to assert their right to buy even where the owner is unwilling to sell – but to date no such transactions have occurred. Where communities have tried to assert these rights, the process has become snarled in protracted and expensive legal proceedings. Community Land Scotland have long argued that there is a need for some kind of third party agency to mediate between parties. Something similar seems to have worked in the long running dispute at Pairc.
Residents of the Pairc Estate on Lewis have agreed to negotiate a deal with their landowner rather than force a buy-out of most of the estate.
Barry Lomas offered to end a legal battle with his tenants if a hostile bid for the estate was dropped.
The community-run Pairc Trust had started the process of a compulsory purchase.
But the crofters have now agreed to take up Mr Lomas’ offer to negotiate the purchase of almost all the land.
Mr Lomas was challenging the hostile buy-out.
The deal should bring an end to court action and also the uncertainty of fresh legal wrangling.
Community Land Scotland, an organisation representing community land owners, welcomed the move.
Policy director Peter Peacock said: “To get this far has required a great deal of determination by the community, and latterly all parties have been able to make progress through a process of brokered discussions.
“This is a good example of how a process of independently facilitated discussions could help many more communities now and in years to come.”
The organisation has called for the setting up of a new agency to facilitate more discussions between communities and landowners about land ownership.
Local councillor Philip McLean said the agreement to hold negotiations was a positive development in a “long running saga”.
He said: “Although there will be further dialogue with the local community on the detail, the decision taken last night clears the way to engage with the landlord on an amicable basis.”