Scottish Land & Estates has today called for greater private and third sector involvement in the community planning process.
In its submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Land & Estates said more effective engagement with businesses and charities is required to ensure that community planning takes account of all views.
The organisation has also outlined its support for the extension of community right to buy to urban areas where there is a willing seller and welcomed planned updates to allotment legislation. The submission also details support for plans to increase the transparency on common good land and assets.
However, Scottish Land & Estates has noted concerns regarding a clear definition of what constitutes a “community body”, especially when it is applied to different situations and scenarios throughout the Bill.
The evidence also makes clear Scottish Land & Estates’ opposition to the introduction of a compulsory power for communities to buy neglected or abandoned land, with issues of definition, potential compatibility issues with the European Convention on Human Rights and failure to use powers already in place amongst the organisation’s concerns.
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The Community Empowerment Bill is intended by the government to give power to people to make decisions about their future.
“There are many ways in which communities can be involved in the use of land without ownership and this should be borne in mind. Effective community planning is central to delivering the key aims of enabling more people in both rural and urban Scotland to have a stake in how land is used, and to generating and supporting improved relationships between land, people, economy and environment.
“There are aspects where the desire to give power to communities could infringe on the rights of private ownership.
“We do not support any proposals for the forced sale of assets and believe that under no circumstances should a compulsory power for communities to buy neglected or abandoned land be introduced. There are many problems with this proposal, not least the definition of what is abandoned. Land that is purchased for a long-term strategic purpose but is not developed immediately or land which lies fallow as part of a sound land management approach could be taken away from an owner which, in our view, would be problematic in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“There is also concern over the different definitions of ‘community body’ contained within the Bill, which we believe will result in a degree of confusion that may well impact on the success of the legislation.
“Improvements to the community right to buy provisions are required to make the process easier for the communities and willing sellers who are looking to work together across Scotland.
“Overall, the Bill can encourage progress in several areas to help empower communities but there is a need to ensure that these advances are not made at the expense of the rights of the individual to freely own property in our society.”