The negotiated sale of 750 acres of land known as Holm Hill from Buccleuch’s Borders Estate to the Newcastleton and District Community Trust (NDCT) marks an exciting future for Newcastleton. Community ownership of land ensures local resilience and is integral to regeneration and sustainable development in Scotland.
The Scottish Land Commission recently published a Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocol on Negotiating Transfer of Land to Communities with a supporting route map. They are committed to supporting businesses and communities like Buccleuch and Newcastleton through their Good Practice Programme, making the negotiated transfer of land to communities normal practice.
Buccleuch identified 25,000 acres of land on the Borders Estate to be sold, prior to putting it on the open market they consulted with the communities impacted. Through this engagement, a clear interest in community ownership of the land emerged and Buccleuch committed to giving communities, including Newcastleton and District Community Trust, time to develop their plans.
Buccleuch agreed to postpone putting the land on the open market and later signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NDCT.
The two parties then followed Community Land Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates’ Protocol for Negotiated Sales. Over the next twelve months, NDCT worked tirelessly, engaging the wider community, fundraising, establishing the value of the land, undertaking feasibility studies and drafting the business plan.
A partnership of organisations including Community Land Scotland, Development Trust Association Scotland, South of Scotland Enterprise, The Scottish Land Fund, Scottish Land and Estates and The Scottish Land Commission worked together with us providing support and advice throughout the process.
With overwhelming community support, NDCT were successful in securing the investment required to purchase the land with both parties concluding the acquisition in September 2020.
Our Key Learnings
Newcastleton and District Community Trust’s advice for community organisations
Engage the community widely: Much more is gained if you work collaboratively and listen. There is no short cut to doing this and this feedback is hugely valuable as part of the development planning.
Employ experts who are not afraid to tell you the pitfalls of your plan: Taking on a project of this size has enormous potential liabilities which could cripple a community. Listen to the experts.
Keep the landowner informed of progress so that they know the scale and scope of local support for the plans: They are more likely to accommodate changes to the timeline if they know the full picture – this happened to NDCT, the funding submission was delayed by 3 months impacting on the agreed deadline but Buccleuch accommodated the change allowing a successful bid for funds to be made.
Seek out other communities who have done this before and ask them about their experience: One size does not fit all; each project will be different but understanding there will be pitfalls and knock-backs allows Trustees to manage community expectation when it happens.
Allow plenty of time to complete all the steps in the protocols: Not doing them will ultimately impact on the outcomes of the project when you do not need to be delayed. If you cannot provide a strong case, backed up with positive financial and social outcomes that meet community need then you are not giving your project THE BEST chance of succeeding.
The community have a developed a comprehensive business plan for the land (a requirement of securing the investment from the Scottish Land Fund.) The work to implement that plan begins now to start to make these plans a reality.
Steve Hartley, Chair of the Trust, said:
“The last 12 months have seen a mammoth amount of work undertaken by many people to get us to where we are today, the culmination of all that work results in being awarded the capital to purchase land adjacent to our village. Community ownership of this land, much of it still used today as it was over 225 years ago, now gives us all a bigger, brighter, sustainable future.’”
To find out more contact:
Barbara Elborn BEM, Secretary, Newcastleton & District Community Trust