Community Rights to Buy


MacPhee and Partners have recently become Associate Members and supporters of Community Land Scotland! Our Community Land Team, made up of Senior Partner and Crofting Law Specialist, Duncan MacPhee, our Commercial Partner, Christine Mackay and Solicitor, Isabella MacRitchie who are each assisted by Trainee Solicitor, Rebecca Fraser, and are on hand to offer advice in relation to transactions involving community land acquisitions. The members of our Community Land Team are based across our Fort William and Oban Offices and can be contacted on either 01397 701000 or 01631 562308.

Rebecca advises as follows:-

Community Right to Buy (“CRTB”) allows communities throughout Scotland to apply to register their interest in land and their wish to be offered the opportunity to buy that land if and when it comes up for sale. This process is governed by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (“2003 Act”), the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (“2015 Act”) and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 (“2016 Act”). The most recent legislative changes mean that Communities can now register their interest in respect of differing types of CRTB’s, namely:-

  1. Original Community Right to Buy – 2003 Act amended by the 2015 Act;
  2. Abandoned or Neglected or Detrimental Land Community Right to Buy – 2015 Act
  3. Further Sustainable Development Community Right to Buy – 2016 Act.

The Original 2003 CRTB allowed communities a right of first refusal, sometimes referred to as a pre-emption right, to purchase the land in question, which would mean they would have the opportunity to put forward their offer before the land became available to the general public, provided they could show the acquisition would benefit the local community in some way. This CRTB can already be exercised by eligible community bodies. A recent example is Helensburgh Communities Woodland Group who have recently acquired two areas of woodland which they intend to preserve as an extension of the local nature reserve of Duchess Woods.

The Abandoned or Neglected Land CRTB potentially gives further powers to communities. Under this legislation an owner may be compelled to sell their land where the Scottish Ministers consider it to be “wholly abandoned or neglected or the use or management of the land is such that it results in or causes harm, directly or indirectly, to the environmental wellbeing of the community”. The community body must make attempts to negotiate the purchase directly with the owner, failing which they can apply to the Scottish Ministers to make a determination regarding the land and ultimately, the land owner could be forced to sell to the interested community body. This CRTB hasn’t as of yet been given effect. However, it is expected to be in force by the summer of this year.

Lastly, the 2016 Act will introduce the Further Sustainable Development CRTB, which will allow the Scottish Ministers to enable a community to purchase land, against the landowner’s wishes, provided that certain criteria are met, as follows:-

(a) the transfer of the land is likely to further the achievement of sustainable development in relation to that land;

(b) it is in the public interest;

(c) it will significantly benefit the community;

(d) transferring the land is the only practicable way of achieving that benefit; and

(e) if not allowing the transfer would likely result in significant harm to the community as a whole.

Each of these conditions must be met before the Scottish Ministers will make any determination. This CRTB also has not been given effect as of yet. However, the right is expected to be exercisable by communities shortly.

In each case, there are procedural requirements which must be followed as part any application which includes making sure all parties who are directly affected by your registered interested are notified and given the opportunity to rebut the application.

Previously, communities could only register their interest in land if they had a population of 10,000 people or less. However, the 2015 Act removed this requirement and now all community bodies in Scotland, not just small rural villages, are able to register such an interest and potentially acquire land for the benefit of their local community.

Readers may note we have omitted to mention the two types of Crofting Right to Buy currently supported by legislation. Our in-house accredited Crofting Law Specialist and resident crofter, Jeremy Benfield, is able to assist in relation to any queries our local crofters may have regarding these rights. Jeremy can be contacted at: [email protected] or 01397 701000.

For further information or assistance with registering your community interest please contact a member of our Community Land Team, or your usual MacPhee and Partners contact who can put you in touch with the appropriate Solicitor.


MacPhee and Partners LLP, Solicitors & Estate Agents

Fort William :: Oban :: Tiree

Duncan MacPhee – [email protected]

Christine Mackay – [email protected]

Isabella MacRitchie – [email protected]

Rebecca Fraser – [email protected]