Overcoming barriers to community land-based activities: gudiance

Guidance on good practice in overcoming barriers to community land-based activities.

1. Introduction

1.1 Policy context

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was a significant step in the Scottish institutional framework, enabling community empowerment through asset-based rural development (Shucksmith, 2010; Skerratt, 2011). The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 extends the potential for community land acquisition to urban areas and includes powers for communities to pursue absolute right-to-buy where land is considered abandoned or neglected. Community land acquisition is often supported by public bodies such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who ensure that engagement processes demonstrate community representation and seek to appraise the options available for community land-based activities to be pursued. In many cases, effective engagement and negotiation between community and landowner (both public and private) can ensure that community needs are met (Roberts and McKee, 2015) and partnership working between private estate owners and communities has been promoted as a route to sustainable rural development (McKee, 2015; Glass et al., 2012).

The need to promote partnership working between landowners and communities was recognised in the much anticipated Land Reform Bill (now Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016) [1] . In particular, the Act includes the provision of guidance by Scottish Ministers for landowners and tenants on engaging with communities on land-based decisions (Part 4). The Policy Memorandum that accompanied the Land Reform Bill (as introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 22 nd June 2015) also detailed some potential consequences for landowners if they fail to consider the guidance including, for example, reduced access to grant funding, as well as measures affecting private property rights, most significantly potential for compulsory sale orders where a community's 'sustainable development' is considered inhibited ('significantly harmed') by landowner actions (Part 5; Scottish Government, 2015).

This project aims to provide an overview of stakeholder views relevant to Part 4 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 and to provide recommendations for the guidance to be issued by Scottish Ministers.

1.2 Project background and objectives

Roberts and McKee (2015) provide a classification scheme that distinguishes categories of land ownership barriers to community land-based activities. Each category of barrier identified in the classification scheme arises from a different source and thus may require a different resolution mechanism. The case studies identified in this earlier project highlighted several different resolution strategies which had been used to overcome land ownership barriers to community activities. For example, external mediation and consultation processes had been effective in overcoming problems between particular landowners and communities, allowing activities to proceed. The role of intermediaries such as community support actors and land agents was highlighted as critical to a successful resolution, as well as the timescale for negotiation (Roberts and McKee, 2015).

This report builds on this by reporting insights from interviews with the representatives from the private landowning sector regarding the challenges and opportunities to the adoption of different strategies and achieving good practice in the resolution of barriers to community land-based activities. It complements previous research on landowner-community engagement and partnership working (cf. McKee, 2015; Glass et al., 2012) and provides detail on the practicalities, resource implications and the role of policy in supporting and resolving barriers when they occur.


Email: Graeme Beale, socialresearch@gov.scot

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