Community Land Scotland reports ‘explosion’ in buyout interest

The National, by Karin Goodwin

SCOTLAND is seeing an “explosion” of interest in urban community buyouts, according to experts who claim dozens of groups are now aiming to buy land and buildings in towns and cities across the country.

Community buyouts have often been synonymous with rural communities islands such as Eigg – the first to be bought by islanders from a laird some 21 years ago – Gigha, or Knoydart.

But with communities of more than 10,000 now able to access money from the Scottish Land Fund, scores of groups in towns and cities across Scotland want to buy land or buildings to benefit their neighbourhoods.

They include community projects such as the Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow, which is in the process of buying the old school turned community centre, closed by the council in 1996 and saved by a community sit-in.

Other projects include those in Robroyston, in the north of the city, including the purchase of unused local woodland by community-run housing association Copperworks. Many are concentrated in Glasgow and Lanarkshire and include bowling greens, growing spaces and shops and community halls.

They follow Action Porty, which became the first group to use the legislation to secure a community buy-out in an urban area.

It took over the former Portobello Old Parish Church and Halls for a multi-use community hub in September 2017.

Community Land Scotland – set up in 2010 to give community land owners a collective voice – said more than 70 people representing town and city groups had registered to attend its first urban land gathering in Glasgow this Tuesday.

Linsay Chalmers, development manager, said: “Community buyout started off as a rural thing. I think people in towns and cities didn’t know it was an option that was open to them.

“Suddenly there just seems to have been an explosion of interest.

“We feel it’s really important that communities all get access to land ownership. Often if you live in a deprived urban area you don’t get any say about what goes on there. If there is a regeneration project very often communities are just a token voice. Community land ownership turns that on its head.”

Since April 2016 – when the rules on accepting applications from communities based in towns and cities changed – the Scottish Land Fund has worked with 36 urban group with 22 awards worth £4.9 million made.

It is claimed they are supported by the 2015 Community Empowerment Act, which gives communities a stronger voice in the development process.

However some have complained that the process is still too complex and not supported by local authorities.

Several community organisations told the Sunday National that more information and support is needed to allow communities to take advantage of the legislation.

John Watt, chair of the Scottish Land Fund, confirmed the number of urban applications was growing.

He added: “We look forward to welcoming more applications from groups across urban Scotland and hope that the Urban Community Land Gathering event helps and inspires many more groups to come forward.”