The public announcement earlier this week that the Machrihanish Community Buy Out had completed is good news for communities in more ways than one.
Described as “the largest and most complicated community buyout under current Scottish land reform legislation “the success of this completion is due in no small measure to the tenacity and willingness of both the landowning vendor, the Ministry of Defence and the purchasing community Machrihanish Airbase Community Company to work together to put into place a contractual structure which offers the best long term future for MACC.
Morton Fraser were pleased to act on behalf of the Ministry of Defence in this ground breaking deal which, facilitated by support and financial assistance from the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Water and the Ministry of Defence, delivered the following reported benefits to the Community;
- £1.7 million investment in local infrastructure;
- £300,000 to address issues relating to the condition of the base (e.g. road maintenance) and other costs;
- 137 former MoD houses and commercial properties connected to a public water supply for the first time;
- Upgrade of the private sewage system and electrical infrastructure.
However the completion of the buy out will also be welcomed as kicking new life into the Scottish Government’s Community Right to Buy (CRTB) programme which was set up under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003 to allow community bodies in rural areas the opportunity to register an interest in land and buy that land once it is offered for sale.
The experience since 2003 is that the road to buy out is not an easy one nor some would say should it be in terms of ensuring long term viability of an asset.
According to Scottish Government figures, since the scheme was introduced only 12 CRTBs have completed out of 175 community bodies being formed and 139 registration applications being submitted to Scottish Ministers. Of these 59 registrations are awaiting land coming onto the market. The CRTB has been triggered on 32 applications (23%) and of these 12 have been successful with 2 being completed out with the Act.
Kate Dewar, social housing expert with Morton Fraser, commented: "The importance of pulling together a viable business plan and accessing grant funding streams can be a minefield. All of the prospective CRTBs which failed to proceed to purchase could not raise funds.
"Giving communities more control of their destiny lies at the heart of central and local government policy. Knowing how communities can achieve this needs specialist help drawn from experience. Let’s hope the good news story from Machrihanish encourages others."