Author: Comms

National Student Award opens for entries

A new national student award is set to encourage involvement in land reform and help with the work of the Scottish Land Commission.

The Commission is shaping the debate around urban and rural land reform, to improve the productivity, diversity and accountability of the way Scotland’s land is owned, used, and managed.

Research underpins its work so that decisions and recommendations are thoroughly evidence based, and the Commission uses a wide academic network to provide research on key land reform issues. Its new student award is open to any student studying at a Scottish academic institution who undertakes a land reform related piece of research.

The successful student will contribute research to help take forward the Commission’s work, covering everything from land value tax to new models of community ownership. Research areas of particular interest this year are:

  • The potential to deliver affordable housing in rural communities;
  • Motivating behaviour change in relation to land;
  • How land reform can help combat climate change;
  • Models of cooperative land ownership;
  • The role of local governance in furthering land reform; and
  • How land reform can realise human rights.

Speaking about the award, Hamish Trench, CEO of The Scottish Land Commission said, “We want to develop new approaches to make the most of Scotland’s land and help to build future research capacity to support land reform. We first offered an award last year through the University of the Highlands and Islands it is great that we can now extend the award nationally so that any students interested in land reform can take the opportunity to work with us and explore issues, gather evidence and spark debate and understanding.”

To apply for the award, a single grant of £1000, students are asked to outline their project and show how it connects to a Scottish Land Commission workstream as well as detailing how it will benefit the applicant’s student experience.

To find out more and download an application form, interested students should visit www.landcommission.gov.scot/studentaward . Applications close on 24 January 2020.

National focus needed to realise the opportunities of transforming derelict land, Taskforce says

The Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce is challenging all sectors in Scotland to help bring land back into productive use and prevent future sites from being abandoned.

Set up last year by the Scottish Land Commission and SEPA, the taskforce has today published a Statement of Intent with actions required to make this happen, at a national level. These are:

  • Coordinate priorities for action and align finance and support
  • Use the rich data Scotland has about vacant and derelict sites to promote opportunities for re-use of land
  • Learn through demonstration what changes are needed in regulatory, policy and finance systems
  • Embed a socially responsible corporate culture to prevent future sites being abandoned

The proposals are informed by a new report published by the Commission that sets out for the first time, an analysis of the different types of sites on the vacant and derelict land register and the challenges of bringing them back into use.

The report highlights some recent – inspiring – examples and shows how local authorities and other public agencies have helped drive these projects forward. The report also seeks to understand the factors behind a core of persistent, so-called ‘stuck sites’ – usually older, larger and derelict sites – some of which have been on the register for decades. It is these “persistently problematic” sites that the Task Force most wants to tackle.  Bringing these unloved urban spaces back into productive use can play a major role in reducing social inequalities; addressing climate change; improving health and delivering inclusive growth. For example, the sites could be used to:

  • Build new homes to limit urban sprawl and reduce commuting
  • Provide new allotments and city farms for fresh food grown locally
  • Create new parks and green spaces adding to biodiversity and wellbeing
  • Attract new investment, creating jobs and wealth in parts of the country that need it most
  • Generate renewable energy, potentially helping to tackle fuel poverty in poorer communities

The report also highlights the risks of further sites being abandoned.  A key aim of the Taskforce going forward will be to embed a responsible approach to land reuse in corporate culture, to prevent sites being abandoned and left in future.

Taskforce chairman, Steve Dunlop said:

“The Taskforce was created to tackle the persistent challenge of derelict land in Scotland and by focusing on these four key actions we can work together to unlock this opportunity.

“We are excited about the opportunity to join community voices and ensure particular policies are at the heart of this. We want to unlock the opportunity for current vacant and derelict sites and stem the flow of new sites being abandoned.

“Communities must be at the heart of the land re-use, through community-led regeneration.”

Hamish Trench, Scottish Land Commission chief executive, said:

“Scotland has a legacy of ‘stuck sites’ with a majority in either current or former public sector ownership.  We need to work together to put procedures in place to ensure that this legacy doesn’t continue.

“Transforming vacant and derelict sites opens up opportunities to promote inclusive growth and greater wellbeing, while tackling climate change. What’s clear is that this needs a national co-ordination to create the focus and changes needed.

“The Statement of Intent sets out the actions that both Government and other partners can take as a co-ordinated national effort.”

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Too much land in Scotland is currently unused. The Scottish Government recognises the huge opportunity that represents, and it’s our priority to ensure that as much of that land as possible is unlocked – acting as a catalyst for community and environmental regeneration.

“The Taskforce was created to help realise that ambition and I welcome their report, which sets out in clear detail what must be done in order to make long term, sustainable change.”

Part of the Land Commission’s ongoing work is to establish ways to measure the additional public value that re-use of derelict land can deliver, beyond simple monetary gain, along with the adverse effects that continued derelict sites have on communities – often those in greatest need. The Commission is also developing a thematic approach to land re-use which can be used as a springboard for projects, whether it is a large site needing a multi-agency approach or a smaller site that could provide a boost to local community aspirations.

Scottish Land Commission seeks community views

The Scottish Land Commission has launched a new survey seeking views of communities across Scotland about community engagement in decisions relating to land.

The Commission wants to make sure that all people in Scotland have the opportunity to be involved in decisions about land that significantly affect them.  The Commission is supporting communities, land owners and land managers to work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use with the publication of its first Protocol on Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land.

The Commission’s Protocol supports the Guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land, which was published by the Scottish Government in April last year.  Over the next couple of years, the Commission will review the effectiveness of the guidance, and recommend improvements if needed. The survey will establish a baseline against which progress can be measured and identify where further support needs to be developed by the Commission or other organisations.

Individual residents and community organisations in both urban and rural Scotland are being asked to complete the survey. The Commission hopes to:

  • learn more about how the way land or buildings are managed impacts communities
  • know what opportunities people have to influence decisions made when land use changes
  • hear what type of support is needed to make engagement more effective.

Clear and open communication is increasingly a key part of public life, with organisations creating mechanisms for ordinary people to be involved in decisions that affect them. A key area where people want to have their say is about local land use and management.

Helen Barton, Community Engagement Advisor at the Scottish Land Commission said:

“We want to hear from communities in both urban and rural Scotland, to find out what level of community engagement is taking place around decisions related to land.

Individuals can respond but also anyone who is involved with community organisations such a community councils, tenants’ or residents’ groups or local government.

“The information provided will not include any personal identifying information and we will collate and analyse the responses to see where there are trends.

“It is important to get an idea of what community engagement is happening now to not only use as a baseline measure but also to see if there are any lessons we can learn from current practices.”

In the survey, the Commission will also be looking to find out how many respondents are aware of the Scottish Government’s guidance as well as the Commission’s own Protocol for Community Engagement, which sets out general and specific expectations for owners and managers of land.

The survey will be open for responses until the end of September 2019 and can be found here: www.landcommission.gov.scot/communityengagement  

Scottish Land Commission creates stronger links to green network

Transforming vacant and derelict land should deliver environmental benefit to communities throughout central Scotland, the Scottish Land Commission said today (June 6).

Speaking in Glasgow at the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) forum, Commission chief executive Hamish Trench said the fair and productive use of land lay at the heart of land reform, and this included ensuring green spaces for healthy communities.

He said: “There are more than 9,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land in the CSGN area; which accounts for 78 per cent of Scotland’s total.

“The CSGN and the Commission believe this land holds huge potential to help make better places that support health and wellbeing, help boost the economy and mitigate against the challenges of climate change. In addition, by rejuvenating these areas communities stand to benefit from increased engagement and empowerment, tackling social inequalities while increasing local pride and ownership.”

The Scottish Land Commission has also agreed a concordat with the CSGN to support transformation of vacant and derelict sites. In it, the two bodies agree to:

  • Work in partnership to identify and create positive uses for vacant and derelict land
  • Recognise and promote green network/green infrastructure solutions
  • Incorporate the emerging priorities from the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce into CSGN-related strategies and plans
  • Share emerging data, analyses and market intelligence

Through the taskforce, launched last year, the Commission has a long term aim to substantially reduce vacant and derelict land in Scotland. Work is already underway to better understand the nature of the challenge, identify potential changes to policy and practice and to share experience of successful projects through demonstrator sites with the potential to be returned to productive use.

Keith Geddes, Chair of the CSGNT said;

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Land Commission to find new and positive uses for vacant and derelict land in the CSGN area. While there was a welcome reduction in the amount of derelict land between 2017 and 2018, much remains to be done. While some of the sites will be suitable for traditional uses such as industry, commerce and housing, many will be suitable for re-naturalisation. And we are seeking to develop innovative uses for the land. In East Ayrshire, an area blighted by the remains of open cast mines, we are working with the Council to develop the East Ayrshire Council Coalfield Communities project at an open cast site between Cumnock and New Cumnock. The project will create opportunities for learning, recreation and wellbeing and has the potential to create a quality offer to attract more tourists to the area.”

The CSGN forum is being held in partnership with the Commission. Its focus this year is on repurposing unused and underused spaces within the CSGN network area, which stretches from Ayrshire and Inverclyde in the west, to Fife and the Lothians in the east.

Buccleuch Estates – Langholm Moor

Andrew Thin, Chair of the Scottish Land Commission welcomes the announcement by Buccleuch Estates that they are to embark on a period of community engagement to help shape the proposed sale of Langholm Moor.

“Buccleuch Estates has committed to reduce its overall footprint and it is good to see the Estate undertaking community engagement to help inform the next phase of proposed land sales.  The Estate will be using the Land Commission’s first Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocol ‘Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land’ which sets out practical advice on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use.

“Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement sets out a clear ambition about the relationship between land and people in Scotland promoting greater diversity in ownership of land including more community ownership, high standards and transparency of land ownership and use and better community engagement in decisions about land.  We welcome the announcement by Buccleuch as a step in achieving this ambition and we encourage other large scale land owners to consider a similar approach.”

Scottish Land Commission invites Peebles residents to community event

The Scottish Land Commission is continuing its calendar of public meetings with the next taking place in Peebles.

The Scottish Land Commission is holding an informal public meeting to give residents of Peebles the opportunity to find out more about how their community can benefit from land reform.

The event is being held at Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre on Tuesday 7 May at 6:30pm.

Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said:

“Land is at the heart of Scotland’s identity, economy and communities – so it matters that it is owned and used in a fair and productive way.  We are keen to meet with communities to discuss the work we are doing to deliver change so that the ownership and use of land realises Scotland’s potential. There are many benefits it can bring to you and your community including transforming vacant and derelict land, community ownership, community engagement in decisions relating to land and unlocking opportunities through modernising land ownership.

“We will also be discussing our recently published report; investigation into the issues associated with large scale and concentrated land ownership in Scotland. The report was published in March, alongside recommendations to Scottish Ministers to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

“This is one of a number of public meetings taking place across Scotland throughout the year from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy and Tomintoul to Perth and we hope to meet as many people as possible. I would encourage everyone to attend and make the most of the opportunity to discuss how we can make more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s people.”

The event is free and refreshments will be provided. For more information visit www.landcommission.gov.scot, call 01463 423 300 or email info@landcommission.gov.scot.

Addressing Scotland’s pattern of land ownership can unlock economic and community opportunities

A new report published today (Wednesday 20 March 2019) finds that concentrated land ownership is having significant impacts on communities across rural Scotland.

The Scottish Land Commission report, titled Investigation into the issues associated with Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland.  It is published alongside a set of Recommendations to Scottish Government Ministers, who asked the Commission to examine these issues.

Representing the most substantial investigation conducted into the impacts of this issue, the report is based on robust evidence about rural land ownership that shows how the concentration of social, economic and decision-making power significantly impacts communities across rural Scotland.

The report follows a call for evidence by the Commission last year, for anyone with experience of living or working in parts of Scotland where most of the land is owned by a small number of people, to share their experiences.

More than 407 people, from landowners and land managers to community representatives and individuals, submitted evidence. The main findings in today’s evidence report are that

  • Most of the disadvantages associated with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership relate to a concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, not simply the size of landholdings
  • The advantages identified relate mainly to potential economies of scale
  • In some parts of Scotland, concentrated ownership hampers economic development and causes serious and long-term harm to the communities affected
  • The problems are not associated exclusively with any particular type of landowner – the Commission found a consistent pattern of evidence relating to land owned across the private, public, NGO and community sectors
  • There are issues to address beyond ownership, specifically a lack of effective participation in land use change decisions
  • The pattern of market and social power in concentrated land ownership, has parallels with monopoly power in other sectors of the economy
  • There is – currently – little or no method of redress for communities or individuals, where there are adverse economic or social impacts.

Speaking about the report, Hamish Trench, CEO of The Scottish Land Commission said,

“Concern about the impacts of concentrated land ownership in Scotland has long been central to the land reform debate. This evidence report allows us to move on from debating whether ownership is an issue, to understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.

“The evidence we have collected shows clearly that it is the concentration of power associated with land ownership, rather than necessarily the scale of landholding, that has a significant impact on the public interest, for example in relation to economic opportunities, housing and community development.

“Good management can of course reduce the risks associated with the concentration of power and decision making, but the evidence shows that adverse impacts are causing significant detriment to the communities affected. This points to the need for systemic change beyond simply a focus on good management.”

Recommendations

Informed directly by the evidence that has been gathered, the Commission is today making initial recommendations to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

Recommended statutory changes include:

  • Public interest test for significant land transfer
  • Requirement for a management plan
  • Statutory Land Rights and Responsibilities Review

Other recommendations include:

  • Promoting more diverse private ownership to help achieve land reform objectives
  • Local engagement in land use change

The Commission recommends the introduction of a public interest test and approval mechanism at the point of significant land transfer, an obligation for larger land holdings to engage on and publish a management plan, and a review mechanism to address adverse impacts on communities where normal responsible management approaches are not effective.

Speaking about the recommendations, Hamish Trench said,

“The reforms we propose are a first step to address the significant issues identified in the evidence and move towards a more diverse and dynamic pattern of land ownership.

“Some of these reforms will require legislative change, and in the short term we have identified the need for stronger leadership within the land ownership sectors to address the risk and impacts identified and implement a programme of land rights and responsibilities good practice.

“These reforms seek to address the issues of concentrated land ownership using ways that are normal in other countries and economic sectors. It is common in international practice to have some form of approval measures at point of land transaction and we are also used to regulating the concentration of market power and monopoly positions in other sectors of the economy.”

The Commission is to engage widely with stakeholders and the public on the findings of the evidence, its implications and their recommendations, through a series of events and public meetings culminating in a land reform conference in October 2019.

 

 

Practical on-farm amnesty days call for tenant farmers to act now

A series of meetings held across Scotland have called for tenant farmers to act now to record and agree improvements as part of the tenant amnesty.

Last week saw the conclusion of a round of meetings, held by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), supported by the Scottish Land Commission, which demonstrated and explained to tenant farmers how to carry out the amnesty for tenant’s improvements. 

Tenant farmers have until June 2020 to consider if they have improvements to notify their landlord about and the practical meetings held over the last few months opened up discussion with tenants and land agents about the process.

The meetings took place on farms across the country and provided practical examples of tenant’s improvements and fixtures alongside practical discussion about the nature of the improvement and if they were eligible for the amnesty.

The meetings also provided step by step guidance on going through the amnesty process and explaining what evidence and information is required to demonstrate that the improvement was carried out by the tenant.

Commenting on the importance of the amnesty Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh said:

“The meetings have been a good opportunity to encourage tenant farmers to begin the amnesty process and to prepare a definitive list of improvements that may be eligible for compensation at waygo.  Tenants may be able to claim for the improvements even if some procedures weren’t followed when they were initially made.

“It is really important to emphasise that this amnesty is only taking place for three years – and we’re half way through already.  If tenant farmers have not started, they need to get started now.”

STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:

“Completing the tenants’ amnesty is one of the most important tasks most tenants will ever undertake. Not only will this regularise and record improvements, but identifying tenant’s improvements and fixtures will be essential for the new rent test due to be rolled out in the next year or so.

“The amnesty has the full support of the industry so it is surprising that such a small number of tenants seem to be taking advantage of the amnesty and we would urge all tenants to get involved before it is too late,’

More information about the amnesty can be found on www.landcommission.gov.scot/tenants-amnesty-campaign

Land value capture to have a proactive role in place making

Ways in which Scotland can successfully harness land value capture to create places where people want to live are being explored by the Scottish Land Commission.

Focus on how to capture the increase in the value of land due to publically created uplifts such as improved infrastructure, planning permission and wider societal changes has increased with the current policy debate in Scotland around the Planning Bill. 

There is a call to give planning authorities the ability to acquire development land at values closer to its existing use.  Planning authorities will then benefit from the uplift in land value generated when the sites receive planning permission to fund investment in the infrastructure required to support the development.

To inform this debate the Land Commission has published the sixth paper in its Land Lines discussion series.  The paper ‘Local authority land acquisition in Germany and the Netherlands: are there lessons for Scotland?’ looks at the experience of other countries, in particular the Netherlands and Germany, and suggests what lessons Scotland might learn from this experience.  The paper’s author, Professor Tony Crook, examines how local authorities could capture more of this “development value“, using it to facilitate improvement.

The report findings suggest that the key difference between practice on the continent and Scotland lies more in the overarching approach to planning and land assembly than the detail of the compensation arrangements used to support it. 

The Commission is looking at land value capture to help deliver well-planned sustainable communities in places people want to live and at prices they can afford to pay.  To work towards this they have identified five connected opportunities to explore how the uplift in land values can be shared to greater benefit:

  • More effective use of existing mechanisms to fund different types of infrastructure in different areas
  • Availability of highly skilled multidisciplinary teams in both the public and private sector
  • Greater use of planning policies to shape land values by clear and consistent application of planning policies to reduce the difference between existing use value and full market value
  • Investigate the potential of land pooling and the opportunity presented by the “masterplan consent areas” proposed in the current Planning Bill to deliver this
  • Investigate the use of local property taxation to capture more of the uplift in land values generated from wider societal change to help fund infrastructure and place-making.

Commenting on the report, Shona Glenn, Head of Policy at the Scottish Land Commission said that the debate about how to capture the uplift in land value associated with planning permission for public benefit is a long standing one and a debate that is now once again, very topical.

“It is important that we learn from what has worked elsewhere and adapt it to the local context, so that we can help to deliver well-planned, sustainable communities

“Effective solutions to capture the uplift in land value for the public benefit need to combine looking at compensation and compulsory purchase with wider changes designed to support place-making and a more proactive role for planning authorities.”

The Land Commission’s next steps are to review the most effective ways in which to capture the increase in land value and specifically the opportunities for land pooling and assembly as a means to help deliver it.

Tenant Farming Commissioner publishes Buccleuch Report

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, has today issued his report into the handling by Buccleuch Estates of negotiations with agricultural tenants over their farm leases.

The Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) was asked by Buccleuch Estates to look into concerns raised at a public meeting regarding a number of terminations of Limited Partnership arrangements and a Short Limited Duration tenancy.

The TFC reviewed five cases, looking at how the Estate had dealt with the cases and whether they were handled in accordance with good practice and relevant published codes and guides.

The TFC found that no actions by the Estate were in contravention of agricultural holdings legislation but that best practice was not always followed and that some of the discussions and negotiations could have been handled more sensitively by the Estate.

Bob McIntosh said:

“There are some valuable learning points from this exercise which have relevance for all landlords and tenants. The ending of non-secure tenancies has the potential to be a sensitive issue, particularly where past practices by the landlord may have led tenants, and general partners in an limited partnership, to feel that they have more security of tenure than is actually provided.

“When entering into such arrangements, and throughout the duration of the agreement, it is important that landlords and tenants are clear with each other about their expectations and aspirations for the future and that the outcome of these discussions is recorded so that unpleasant surprises for either party are avoided.

“It is also important, that where action by a land owner is likely to have major implications for land use, for communities and for the circumstances of individual tenants, the exercise is well planned with a good communications and engagement plan.

“Landowners must be able to pursue legitimate business interests but should heed the principles set out in such publications as the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, the Landowners’ Commitment published by Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Government’s ‘Guidance on Engaging Communities on Decisions Relating to land’.

“It will not always be possible to find outcomes that suit all stakeholders but consideration of the external impacts is likely to at least influence the process, and timing, by which change is brought about.

“The primary purpose of the Tenant Farming Commissioner is to promote good relations between landlords and tenants in the agricultural holdings sector.  This report highlights the importance of proactive engagement by landowners and land managers with tenants and communities when significant changes are planned.”

Read the full report here.