Exploring Barriers to Community Land-Based Activities

This report explores perceptions of the barriers to community land based activities in Scotland

2 Research Approach

Research was conducted in two stages. Stage 1 focussed on the development of a draft framework for categorising different types of land ownership barriers to community activities. It also reviewed existing classifications of types of landowners.

Stage 2 involved testing the robustness of the framework and where appropriate, amending and supplementing the categories of barriers through interviews with key informants. In particular, data collected from the key informants was used to identify the significance of different type of barriers by type of community activity, type of land owner, and geographical (rural-urban) area. The interviews provided a number of case studies which could be used to understand better the nature and relative significance of the problem in different contexts.

The research methods used in each stage were as follows:


This stage was based on a review of previous literature. Much of the literature was related to either rural or urban areas, or particular types of developments (e.g. brownfield sites or renewable developments). Thus, to make sure that all relevant aspects for the project were covered, a review of typical land-based activities proposed by communities was also undertaken, focussing on their particular requirements for land rights and responsibilities. Section 3 summarises the main findings from this stage of the project.

Output from stage 1 took the form of a draft framework of ownership barriers to community land-based activities which drew heavily on the framework proposed by Adams et al. (2001). In particular it distinguished between barriers associated with the nature of the land market and those associated with land owner behaviour. However the framework was extended to also incorporate aspects specific to community -led developments and rural as well as urban contexts.

Stage 2:

The second stage of the research was based on 20 semi-structured interviews with key informants involved in community land based activities. The key informants were selected on the following criteria:

  • Type of organisation
  • ­ providers of support to community groups;
  • ­ project funders
  • ­ community representative bodies
  • Geographical coverage
  • ­ urban;
  • ­ rural;
  • ­ both urban and rural
  • Expertise in particular types of community activities

The final list of informants is given in Appendix A.

In advance of the interview, a summary of the framework developed in stage 1 of the project was sent to interviewees. During the interview, the interviewees were asked to suggest specific case studies where community land based activities had been constrained by one or more barriers to the acquisition of land property rights and to reflect on the extent to which they recognised the different categories of barriers provided in the draft framework. The interviewees were asked their views on the frequency with which different land ownership barriers occur and inter-relationships between the underlying barriers. Additional questions focussed on the mechanisms and approaches adopted by different actors to overcome the barriers including, for example, actions such as mediation and consultation processes, partnership working, shared equity schemes/shareholding and community buy-out. The interviews were conducted over the phone and typically lasted for between 50 and 150 minutes. A number of interviewees sent the research team further thoughts and case study examples following the interview. As a result an extremely rich qualitative dataset, consisting of 75 case studies, was gathered within a short timescale.

It is recognised that the case studies identified by the informants disproportionately relate to areas where communities have been most active in proposing land based activities (it is possible that different types of barriers may exist in other areas of Scotland). They also exclude situations where the barriers are such that community activities are not proposed. However, while both these issues are acknowledged, this does not diminish the usefulness of the findings. Given the sensitivity of the topic area, details of individual case studies are not included in this report. Instead the results are presented in a form which preserves anonymity while highlighting the nature of the barriers identified.

A thematic analysis of the compiled data was conducted, focussing on the significance of different types of land ownership barriers, rural/urban variation, types of community activities affected, and the mechanisms in place/currently missing for barrier resolution. In large part, the classification scheme was found to be robust however some additional market-based and community-related barriers were identified and a number of changes were made to the terminology to make it more applicable to Scottish Law.

The results of this stage of the research are presented in section 4 in the form of a table summarising the various categories of land ownership barriers and a detailed description of each barrier. Section 4 also describes overarching findings from the interviews.


Email: Richard Murray

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