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16/06/2014

Community land grab bill unveiled

Words: Roger Milne

The Scottish government has published legislation designed to reform the existing community right-to-buy regime, which ministers insist will make it simpler for communities to take over public sector land and buildings.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is designed to strengthen community participation and encourage enterprising community development. Measures in the bill will streamline the existing right-to-buy arrangements which will be extended to cover all parts of Scotland, both urban areas and larger rural towns. The government has a target to have one million acres under community ownership by 2020.

The bill includes provision for communities to take over public sector land and buildings where they can show they can deliver greater public benefit with those assets.

Examples could include land for community groups to grow their own food, develop play facilities for young people or a place for older people to meet and socialise.

Rules on Scotland's local authority allotment sites will also be simplified, strengthening the duty on councils to provide sites because of actual demand. The bill will also protect allotment sites from closure.

As well as unveiling the legislation, local government minister Derek Mackay confirmed an increase in funding from the People and Communities Fund with an extra £1.5 million promised from this source in 2015-16 when the total will amount to £9.4 million annually.

Mackay said: “This bill is about enabling people and communities throughout Scotland to make their own decisions and to build their own future.

“This legislation will empower communities who wish to take over public land and buildings where they think they can make better use of them than their current public sector owners and ensure their ambitions are supported by public bodies.” The bill could become law next year.

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