Community Right to Buy
Community Right to Buy allows communities throughout Scotland to apply to register an interest in land and gives the opportunity to buy that land when it comes up for sale. This mainly applies to privately-owned land or buildings. COSS has published 'Introduction to Community Right to Buy' guidance which provides an overview of whats involved and the different options available to communities for aquiring private land through Community Right to Buy.
The Scottish Government's Community Land Unit has all the information on making a Community Right to Buy application and can advise and support you through the process. Their contact details can be found at the bottom of this page.
What is "Community Right to Buy" (CRtB)?
A CRtB gives a pre-emptive right to communities throughout Scotland to buy land under Part 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. It provides for those communities, who successfully register a community interest in land, to have the first option to buy when the registered land is offered for sale.
Community bodies can register an interest in any land, such as churches, pubs, estates, empty shops, woodland, fields and more. Community bodies can also register an interest in rights such as salmon fishing rights and certain mineral rights.
- A registered interest in land lasts for five years (from the date of approval from Scottish Ministers) and can be re-registered on an ongoing basis at five-year intervals.
- The sale involves an owner who has decided to sell (termed a 'willing seller').
- The community right to buy (CRtB) should be used where the community has identified land and has proposals for that land that could further the achievement of sustainable development.
CRtB is one of a number of avenues available to help communities buy land. It might not be the best option for your community body.
All options should be considered (e.g. working in partnership with the landowner, private negotiations with the landowner, leases, or buying the land on the open market).
What "Community Right to Buy" is not
- It is not a forced sale of land.
- It is not a compulsory purchase of land.
- It is not intended to be used as a means to block or blight developments on land (This should be addressed through the appropriate channels.)*
- It is not intended to be used to stop the landowner from developing their land even if the community disagree with their plans. This should be addressed through the appropriate channels*.
- It is not intended to be used as a means to prevent or block other interested parties from purchasing land*.
- A registration is not meant to preserve the status quo. The right to buy needs to show sustainable development benefits for the land and the community*.
Where an application to register an interest in land appears to demonstrate any of those points marked * above, then Scottish Ministers may decline to register the application.
What land can be registered?
An application to register an interest in land can be made in relation to any type of land (and rights on the land) including, for example:
- Brown and green field sites
- Retail units
- Industrial units
- Salmon fishing or mineral rights
The only land in which an interest cannot be registered, called "excluded land", is land which consists of certain rights which are owned separately from the land, for example rights to gather mussels and oysters.
Who can apply?
Your community must form a community body (CB) to apply to register an interest in land. This must either be a:
- Company limited by guarantee
- Scottish charitable incorporated organisation (SCIO)
- Community benefit society.
Your community body must comply with the relevant requirements of Section 34 of the Act.
The community body should:
- Be controlled by members of the community;
- Be defined geographically;
- Meet the additional requirements for defining your community as set out in section 34(5) of the Act
- Ensure its main purpose is consistent with furthering the achievement of sustainable development.
Note - the above is not an exhaustive list of eligibility criteria. Please refer to the detailed guidance downloadable from the bottom of this page.
Model templates and guidance to enable a community to form a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), or a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLBG), for the purpose of registering an interest in land can be found here.
Scottish Ministers must give written confirmation that the main purpose of the community body is consistent with furthering the achievement of sustainable development before the community body can apply to register an interest in land under the Act.
Unless you are already an eligible body under the Act (and validated by the Community Land Unit of the Scottish Government) it is recommended that only once your community body receives the compliance letter it registers newly formed organisation articles of association, constitution or registered rules with the relevant governing body (Companies House, the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator or the Financial Conduct Authority, as appropriate for the type of body formed).
Timeous or Late Application?
There are two types of applications:
Timeous applications are applications which are made when no action has been taken by the landowner or creditor with a view to transfer the land, for example putting the land on the market or entering into private negotiations with a potential purchaser.
Late applications are applications which are made when the land is on the market or where any action has been taken with a view to the transfer of the land to be registered.
Late applications require additional supporting information, such as:
- Reasons why it is in the public interest to register the interest;
- Evidence of a significantly greater level of support at registration stage than the expected 10% normally required for timeous applications; and
- Details of any relevant work or steps taken to buy the land before steps were taken to transfer the land. Ministers can also consent to a late application if they are satisfied that there are good reasons why such work or steps were not taken and for allowing the interest to be registered.
Registering an interest in land - Community support
A CB is normally required to demonstrate at least 10% support from their defined community for their proposed application to register an interest in land.
A petition list is the best way to determine this and should contain:
- A clear question asking whether signatories agree to the community's proposed application;
- Printed name, address and full postcode of each signatory; and
- Date and signature of each signatory.
- Evidence of community support must be within six months of the date the application is made to Scottish Ministers.