This report presents the findings of a Scottish Government-funded project looking at the barriers to community land-based activities.
The Land Reform Review Group (2014) noted that in some instances the scale or pattern of land ownership, and the decisions of landowners, can inhibit community land-based activities. There are many different types of community activities that require rights to land. Such activities range from housing developments to community gardens, renewable energy installations to local paths. While there is anecdotal evidence of situations where communities have failed to secure property rights from existing landowners, the nature and extent of the problem remains unclear and difficult to measure. On the one hand, the evidence that is available may be biased towards negative cases (where there has been a problem) with positive cases (where community activities have gone ahead) under-reported. On the other, the presumption of landowner barriers may mean that communities do not propose (or even consider) certain land-based activities suggesting observable evidence may underestimate the scale of issue.
Against this background, the aim of the project was:
To develop and test a classification scheme which distinguishes between different types of land ownership barriers to community land-based activities, and to better understand the nature and significance of these barriers through case study analysis.
The report considers how the barriers to community land-based activities relate to different types of land owners and/or types of land-based activities. It also explores whether there are differences in the significance of barriers across rural and urban areas and, where possible highlights potential resolution strategies.
While the land reform debate has, to date, been dominated by the advantages and disadvantages of (outright) community land ownership, communities may require or be looking for lesser property interests to allow their land-based activities to proceed. Thus the report considers barriers associated with the distribution of all types of property rights and responsibilities between land owners and communities, and is not just confined to the case of outright community land ownership.
The project was conducted by staff based in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group at the James Hutton Institute and builds on initial work done by one of the authors (Roberts) while she was on secondment to Scottish Government in February 2015.
Email: Richard Murray