I’m sure we’ve all been encouraged to read of rural right to buy legislation being exploited by communities in, especially, the Highlands and the Western Isles. However, it looks as if the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 has always allowed, in theory, urban communities to use it but none have till now.
Action Porty took possession today of the old Portobello Church with a view to turning it into a multi-use community hub and in so doing became the first in an urban area to take advantage of the powers.
Action Porty’s vision for the building is:
‘To create a fresh and lively space that’s accessible for all, and useful for people of all ages and abilities. We will be building additions and renovations to create a space that will meet the needs of our whole community. It will be the perfect space for community groups to meet.’
The news.gov.scot site says of the act:
‘The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives communities the right to buy land and assets under certain conditions.’
Wondering what these conditions might be like, I found this from the Law Society of Scotland in 2014:
‘Plans to empower Scottish communities who want to register an interest in land in towns and cities could backfire due to the complexity of proposed changes to the law, the Law Society of Scotland said today. The Society has said the proposals to extend communities’ right to buy land to include people living in urban areas, could be thwarted by the complexity of the proposals and potentially limit rather than empower local groups and stall development plans for neglected land in urban areas.’
I couldn’t find out just what Action Porty had done to overcome these problems but the presence of this person on the board may have helped:
‘Ian Cooke (Secretary): Director of Development Trusts Association Scotland and before that various community-based posts in regeneration. Member of the Land Reform Review Group and has served on a range of boards of community organisations.’
Sounds like he may have been more difficult to thwart.
Amazing what the right person in the right place can achieve !
Much of the publicity about community purchase has been about rural areas like Eigg, South Uist, Assynt, etc. and these redoubtable people are to be commended for their fortitude. Much has been said about the scandal of the proportion of Scotland’s land in the hands of a small number of private individuals. More power to the elbows of those who are taking this campaign forward.
However, as your article indicates, we need to be more active in urban areas – .i.e. who owns Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, etc.? These places are where the bulk of our population lives. These are the places where there is housing shortages. These are the places where the rentiers are siphoning out resources. These are places with large areas of undeveloped, derelict land which could be brought into use for housing and other development, but are wilfully kept in the state they are so that land and property prices are kept artificially high – rigging the market. Such undeveloped land should be subject to taxation which rises progressively the longer the land is undeveloped. One problem is actually finding out who owns these plots, because of the neglect of the registers and the deliberately entangled and obscured nature of property companies, many of whom are ultimately based offshore as part of the money laundering enterprise that is the City of London and Crown territories.
Given that Andy Wightman’s book was entitled “The Poor had no Lawyers”, there is a tendency to view with suspicion any pronouncement by the Law Society of Scotland! However, we must apply the principle of charity and welcome their attempts to identify where the ‘complexities’ lie, so that legislation, regulation and guidelines can be drafted to enable community groups to find their way around more easily. I suspect that you are right in identifying Mr Cooke as probably being significant in the Portobello deal.
The Community Empowerment Act 2015 is just coming into force now. It would be useful if we could establish self help groups to enable us to use it effectively.
Yes, all good points.