With effect from 27 June, it is now possible for a community to register a notice in the Register of Community Interests in Abandoned, Neglected or Detrimental Land.
This is an extension of the community-right-to-buy which was introduced in 2004 and originally allowed a community to register an interest to purchase land. If the land owner wanted to sell the land they would have to offer to sell to the community body first. However, there would be no obligation on the land owner to sell the land if they did not want to. The new provisions could mean that a landowner can be forced to sell the land against their wishes.
Land that is eligible to be acquired by a community body under these new powers falls under two categories:
- Land that is wholly or mainly abandoned or neglected; or
- The use or management of the land is such that it results in or causes harm, directly or indirectly, to the environmental wellbeing of a relevant community.
There are detailed provisions setting out what constitutes abandoned or neglected land, and the factors to be considered include the physical condition of the land and any buildings on it, and how it is currently being used.
Some land is exempt from these new provisions, such as land belonging to the Crown, any croft occupied or worked by the landowner and there is scope for Scottish Ministers to exclude other types of land in the future.
If a community wishes to exercise these rights, they must first set up a relevant body (such as a Company Limited by Guarantee) and then apply to the Scottish Ministers to purchase the relevant land. Before giving their consent, the Scottish Ministers must be satisfied that:
- The land is eligible (see above);
- the community body’s proposals for the land are in the public interest and compatible with furthering sustainable development
- the community body has tried to negotiate with the owner to buy the land; and
- where it is claimed that the land is causing environmental harm, that the community body has asked the relevant regulator (eg SEPA) to deal with the matter and they have failed to do so;
After an application to purchase land is received by the Scottish Ministers, relevant parties such as the current owner, adjoining land owners and creditors are given an opportunity to submit their views in relation to the potential purchase.
During the period in which the application is being considered, that application will be registered in the Register of Community Interests in Abandoned, Neglected or Detrimental Land. That will prevent the landowner from transferring or marketing the land for sale except in certain circumstances including where the landowner has concluded missives for the sale of the property before the application was entered on the Register.
If the application is approved by the Scottish Ministers but the sale price is not agreed between the parties, an independent valuer is appointed to determine market value of the land. The community body and owner can make representations as to the value of the land.
These new powers have the potential to bring several benefits: turning unused land into productive assets; developing unsightly land for the benefit of neighbouring properties; and deterring landowners from the use of property in a way that would cause environmental harm. It remains to be seen, though, whether community bodies will be able to turn around such areas if Landowners and developers have failed to do so.
If you would like any further information please contact a member of our Commercial Property team.
The matter in this publication is based on our current understanding of the law. The information provides only an overview of the law in force at the date hereof and has been produced for general information purposes only. Professional advice should always be sought before taking any action in reliance of the information. Accordingly, Davidson Chalmers LLP does not take any responsibility for losses incurred by any person through acting or failing to act on the basis of anything contained in this publication.