Community Right to Buy

The Community Right to Buy (CRtB) provisions under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 enable communities with a population of less than 10,000 (in rural Scotland) to register an interest in acquiring land, with the opportunity to have first option to buy that land when it comes up for sale.

You may have identified that your community needs recreational land on a piece of unused land or wants to build a new community centre or business units, or perhaps you can see the potential for the community to manage local woodland. Community Right to Buy is not just for land it also extends to any buildings (for example churches, disused schools and community centres), plus salmon fishing and mineral rights associated with the land already owned, being purchased or being registered under the CRtB.

If you have already got a community group set up and wish to register your interest in land or buildings the CRtB provisions would be a means of ensuring that the community is first in line to buy that land when it comes onto the market.

To register an interest you must be incorporated as a ‘Land Reform Act compliant’ Company Ltd by Guarantee.  To be deemed compliant your constitution (also referred to as your governing document or Articles) is required to meet a number of provisions within the land reform Act.

  • No fewer than 20 members – the majority of whom should be from the local community (in very small communities where it may be prohibitive to have 20+ members, the Scottish Ministers may agree a smaller number if it is in the public interest)

  • A clear definition of the community it serves (this is usually by postcode units)

  • a clause that specifies surplus funds or assets of the company are to be applied for the benefit of the community.

Advantages of Community Right to Buy

  • CRtB offers the opportunity of secure knowledge that the land cannot be sold to a third party for the duration of the registered interest.

  • It also amounts to ‘first refusal’ to buy land for community ownership, once it is made available for sale, without having to compete with other private bidders.

  • At the right to buy stage, Scottish Ministers will pay for an independent market value valuation of the land to be sold.

Disadvantages of Community Right to Buy

  • The process requires registration prior to the land coming up for sale, though there is provision for “late” applications (where the land has been exposed for sale).

  • Legislative deadlines and requirements to meet which must be met.

  • Involves a willing seller, therefore it may be some time before the land (or eligible buildings) come on the market.

Your constitution and structure

Once you have established a community interest in acquiring a specific piece of land or building, you will need to set up a ‘Land Reform Act compliant’ Company Ltd by Guarantee.

A model compliant governing document or Articles is available on the HIE website. See Further Sources of Information at the bottom of this page.

Registering Interest

Registration of interest is by application to the Scottish Ministers and should be accompanied by a map showing the location and boundaries of the community and the land to be registered, along with evidence of:-

  • community support for your proposals

  • research of current ownership and any heritable creditor details

You are not required at this stage to set out detailed project proposals for the intended community use of the land, but it may help to set down some ideas on how you intend to utilise the land once purchased.

The Scottish Ministers will notify the landowner of your interest (and any heritable creditor) for comment. Scottish Ministers will then; place a prohibition over the land so that it cannot be sold and; then decide whether or not to approve the application.  Registration’s last for 5 years and can be re-registered.

When the landowner chooses to sell the land, they are required to notify the Scottish Ministers and your community group. Scottish Ministers will check that your group is still interested and you will have a period of 30 days to decide whether to proceed or not. 

A ‘market value’ valuation of the assets will then be undertaken.   A community ballot will then be undertaken and the results submitted to Scottish Ministers within 28 days of receipt of the valuation figure. Additional evidence in support of you right to buy will also be required.  Once you agree to proceed, the land purchase must be completed within 6 months of confirmation of the community group’s intention to proceed with the right to buy (unless extended by agreement with the owner).

The information on this page has been supplied by the Community Assets Branch of The Scottish Government.