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April 4, 2018

Urban right to buy

It will take time before Scotland’s urban communities fully grasp the implications of the community right to buy. In part this is due to the lack of any official promotion of these new powers but it’s also because the process is complex and much more expensive (because of land values) than in rural areas. Nonetheless, once momentum picks up it seems inevitable that it will become an important force for change in the dynamics of urban life. The latest example of a community spotting the strategic value of a local parcel of land is from Aberdeen.

Laura Ferguson, Evening Express

An Aberdeen community has been given eight months to become the first in the north of Scotland to claim private land as its own.

Earlier this year a trust was set up to take over Bonnymuir Bowling Green, which was closed in 2015, and turn it into a market garden and cafe.

The group applied to the Scottish Government, asking for the rights to the land to be transferred under new community buyout powers.

While this process has been in use in rural Scotland, it was only made available to urban areas in 2015 – with just one successful application so far at a church in Edinburgh.

Last night it was confirmed that the ministers have decided to enter the land as a community interest, and gave the group until August 20 to conclude the purchase.

It initiated the buyout process claiming that the trustees of the Bowling Club had refused discussing community ownership.

But the trustees said this was because they had already been courting a private buyer.

Since the application, the trust has received backing from city council co-leader Jenny Laing, Conservative MP Tom Mason and Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald who said at the time: “I am calling on the Scottish Government to act in line with the best interests and the wishes of local people.”

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: “This will be welcome news for the folk in the trust who are working hard to make sure this land is retained to benefit the local community.

“There is of course a lot more to do and the countdown is now on for them to get a ballot of the community and a business plan together by August 20.

“I am a great believer in empowering communities and I hope this good news encourages more groups to seriously consider applying to register community interest in land which could benefit their local area.”

The community trust did not want to comment until it has received further legal advice and the terms of the buyout, which are expected to be confirmed within the next week.

The solicitor for the bowling green trustees could not be reached.

And since this article appeared the Trust have put their proposal to a ballot….

The question asked was –

Do you support Bonnymuir Green Community Trust’s proposal to buy the former Bonnymuir Bowling Green and clubhouse for the use and benefit of the community?

The official letter from the ERS stated the result as –

Number of votes cast FOR the proposal………….984

Number of votes cast AGAINST the proposal…….36

The returned ballots were 43% of the registered voters, which was higher than the last local elections and fantastic considering we lost 6 days as Ballot papers were delayed due to the severe weather.

The result is an incredible show of support from the Community for the project and the protection of urban green spaces. This project is all about Community and to have this level of support is just amazing and a clear mandate for the next stages of the Right to Buy process. Our Vision and Strategy Appraisal Report was submitted to Scottish Ministers on 16th March 2018 and their decision is expected early April 2018.