Community land buying powers not ‘fit for purpose’
Community land buying powers have not been used since they were brought in a year ago, prompting claims the law is not “fit for purpose”.
The Scottish Government confirmed to The Press and Journal that there have been no applications by groups seeking to avail themselves of the law.
It has been suggested by campaigners that the lack of interest may be a consequence of the legislation’s narrow scope.
The powers allow community bodies the right to buy abandoned land, subject to approval by ministers, that is neglected or “causing harm to the environmental wellbeing of the community”, even if landowners do not want to sell.
Community Land Scotland (CLS), the membership organisation for community landowners, had argued that the definition of “harm” that the legislation uses is too narrow.
Calum MacLeod, CLS policy director, said that the lack of applications indicated that the government should “seriously consider” revising the law.
He said: “We’re not convinced that the ‘abandoned, neglected right-to-buy’ is necessarily fit for purpose yet, and the fact we haven’t yet seen any community begin to use it doesn’t dissuade us from the opinion that it isn’t necessarily fit for purpose, because of the way it has been framed.
“If that is the case, it’s vital to ensure that the next one coming up actually enables communities to buy land to further their sustainable development.”
Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish said: “It is concerning that there has not been a single application under these terms.
“It’s clearly in the public interest that the criteria should be widely drawn in order both to prevent land being allowed to stay in a poor state and also to enable sustainable development and local economic regeneration, in parallel with biodiversity.
“The Scottish Government should seriously consider broadening the criteria so that in addition to communities of place, communities of interest should be supported in their quest for the appropriate use of land through right-to-buy.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We actively encourage community ownership initiatives, and provide a wide range of advice and guidance to groups considering a community acquisition of land.
“The Scottish Government Community Land Team has been running a series of roadshows to provide community groups with information and guidance.
“These have already been held in Galashiels, Glasgow and Dundee, and there are three more planned for Kirkwall, Inverness and Perth.”