The original Community Right to Buy (CRTB) was introduced by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and was recently amended by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (“2015 Act”).
It provides eligible community bodies with the opportunity to register an interest in land so that, when the land concerned becomes available for purchase, the community has a pre-emptive right to buy it for the benefit of the local community
The registration of an interest is only the first stage. The opportunity to purchase only arises if and when the landowner takes action with a view to selling the land.
Only communities with a population of up to 10,000 used to be eligible to register an interest but, as a result of the 2015 Act, it now applies to all communities, including city centres and large towns and villages. The 2015 Act also extended the CRTB to include salmon fishings and minerals.
A “community” is no longer restricted by postcode units as the Scottish Ministers can make regulations allowing for a different definition of community. Also, the type of legal entity that can be treated as a “community body” and therefore entitled to register an interest now includes Scottish charitable incorporated associations (SCIOs).
Before permitting a community body to register an interest, the Scottish Ministers must be satisfied that the acquisition of the land is compatible with furthering the achievement of sustainable development and that either (a) a significant number of the members of the community have a “connection” with the land; or (b) the land is sufficiently near to land to which those members of that community have a connection. NB prior to the 2015 Act the rules required a “substantial” connection to the land, so the test has been watered down a little.
The Ministers must also be satisfied that there is sufficient community support for the registration (in practice this is usually evidenced by the community ballot rules) and that registration is in the public interest.
If the right to buy is triggered, a community has eight months to actually complete the purchase (prior to the 2015 Act it was six months)
As long as a registered interest remains on the public register, a landowner cannot transfer the land affected unless the transfer falls within a limited number of exemptions (for example, it is a gift). However, a transfer is not prohibited if an interest is registered after missives have been concluded for the sale of the land or if an agreement for an option to acquire the land was concluded before the interest was registered.