Plans to empower Scottish communities who want to register an interest in land in towns and cities could backfire due to the complexity of proposed changes to the law, it is claimed.
According to the Law Society of Scotland, proposals to extend communities’ right to buy land to include people living in urban areas, could be thwarted by the complexity of the proposals and potentially limit rather than empower local groups and stall development plans for neglected land in urban areas.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill introduced into the Scottish parliament amends the Land Reform (Scotland ) Act 2003 by allowing community bodies to register an interest in respect of not only rural land, but now also urban land in Scotland
‘While the committee welcomes the policy intention behind the bill, our concern is that there may be unintended consequences from the current proposals,’ said Alan McCreadie, secretary to the Society’s planning committee.
‘For example, what would happen if a community registered its interest in urban land which is already subject to a redevelopment proposal? While Scottish Ministers could, in those circumstances, decide that registration is not in the public interest, the uncertainty could have an adverse impact on investment decisions for developers,’ he explained.
‘The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 has benefited people in Scotland’s rural communities and we would want to ensure the same kind of success in our towns and cities. The committee, however, highlights a marked difference between rural land and urban land which may well have a higher price and consequent development costs,’ he added.
The Society also highlights that the procedure for registering community interest in abandoned or neglected land, which is undefined in the bill, is similar to Compulsory Purchase and there should therefore be a requirement for a viable business plan and robust development proposals in respect of any community right to buy abandoned or neglected land.
‘The very complexity of the proposals may also be an issue. Introducing an overly complex, bureaucratic process could discourage communities from working to improve their local area and it may be advisable to set up a central body to steer community bodies through the provisions of this bill,’ added McCreadie.