Scottish Government have made significant strides to empower communities to acquire land as part of their land reform agenda. Previously right to buy legislation was operating as a right of first refusal when the seller decided to put land up for sale, but now communities have pre-emptive rights that they can pro-actively exercise if they follow the appropriate procedures and guidelines. There are various constitutional requirements for a community group to set up as a Community Body that can exercise these rights and assistance with this can be provided by the Community Land Team at Scottish Government.
I have previously written about Asset Transfer Requests that can be made by Community Bodies where property is owned by a public body. Legislation also introduced the right for Community Bodies to force the sale of abandoned, neglected or detrimental land which I wrote about earlier.
The differentiating factor in respect of this new right to buy land to further sustainable development is that whilst the right is exercised by a Community Body, it can also be exercised by third parties nominated by Communities Bodies. This is an interesting distinction from the previous rights and means it might be possible for a Community Body to engage with a private sector partner to take forward a joint project and work with them to deliver a sustainable development project.
Of course, the proposed land transfer still needs to meet the relevant criteria -
- likely to further the achievement of sustainable development;
- be in the public interest; and
- be of significant benefit to the community and is the most practical way of achieving this benefit, or, that rejection of the transfer is likely to result in harm to the community.
My colleague's earlier article gave details as to the criteria that need to be met, as well as the procedures to be followed. The application will not be successful unless the Community Body has already tried and failed to agree a deal to buy the land.
Where a third party is nominated to exercise the right, the Community Body will need to narrate the arrangement with that third party in their application. However, it is difficult to see that the applications received by Scottish Government will not be looked on favourably where a Community Body has engaged with a private sector body to work with them to deliver a sustainable development project. It might also assist in making these projects more financially viable.
Hopefully this possibility of a joint working means that the private sector will see there are opportunities in terms of the community empowerment legislation, and not just perceived threats.