Tom Hellberg sends a link to news of a book, ‘From the Low Tide of the Sea to the Highest Mountain Tops’ written by Professor Jim Hunter and published by the Island Book Trust.
Jim Hunter’s book surveys the implications and impact of land reform in Scotland over the past two decades which has added to the housing stock, attracting new businesses and residents.
Launched in the House of Commons, Inverness, Lewis, Gigha and the Scottish Parliament, it records the passing of more than half a million acres of land in an increasingly self-confident Scotland into community ownership over the past 20 years.
This has been assisted – in theory – by the right to buy for crofting communities, granted in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
A rather hostile report in the Telegraph in 2004, recorded that the Pairc estate on the Isle of Lewis was about to be bought by islanders even though its current owner, who lives in Warwickshire, did not want to sell. There have been protracted legal negotiations about this and an ‘amicable’ resolution and community buyout is sought by the islanders. The latest news is cheering.
Some communities and groups in England, Wales and Ireland are also involved in buying land or considering buying land, often planning for renewable energy generation, co-housing, local food production and local service delivery.
Community Land Trusts, ‘capturing land value for communities’, first came to the writer’s attention in the 80s, when she read about Tony Crofts, who had became concerned about the falling roll in the local primary school and the rising tide of wealthy incomers who were driving up housing costs in Stonesfield and other villages, writing: “I watched villages dying all over the Cotswolds and I didn’t want Stonesfield to suffer the same fate.”
Croft is described as the driving force behind the Stonesfield Community Trust, which he set up with two friends, after donating a quarter-acre site in the village for the first scheme. Another donation of £3000 from an enlightened local company in the village covered the setting up costs, legal fees and the planning submission for first four houses. The development has now produced affordable homes and workspaces which will be owned by the community when all the loans are paid off.
We regret that the Commission for Rural Communities set up by government, which advocated Community Land Trusts (CLTs)has been abolished (effective from 31 March 2013) and hope for the best from the DEFRA-linked Rural Communities Policy Unit (RCPU) – though the minister’s statement does not nourish this hope.
Last word from Patrick Conaty ‘Mr CLTs’, who has worked with the University of Salford’s Community Finance Solutions project, developing a national Community Land Trusts training programme that has been running courses since March 2011 for new groups and local authorities:
“The ways that Community Land Trusts are developing in rural areas of Scotland and England involve good examples of local participative planning systems. There are now over 40 legally registered CLTs (mostly in rural areas but a number seeking to find a way forward in urban areas like the Digbeth CLT).
Ed: See the map at various stages (green on site, blue established CLTs).
Pat added that the late Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 with her work on how communities can redevelop the Commons to manage open spaces, neighbourhoods and waterways.