Urban communities could be given right to buy land

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Urban communities across Scotland could be given greater opportunities to own their own land and buildings under ideas for a new bill.

Local Government Minister Derek Mackay has today launched a wide ranging consultation exploring how to give local people a more direct say in what happen in their communities.

Responses to the consultation will help shape the proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

Ideas being explored in the consulation include extending a right to buy similar to the one enjoyed by rural communities in Scotland to larger towns and cities.  This could allow people in urban Scotland to follow in the footsteps of recent successful community buyouts such as the former airbase at Machrihanish in Argyll.

The consultation also considers whether communities should have a right to ask to take on unused public sector assets such as school and health centres, and how communities can be more involved in making decisions on local budgets, helping public sector organisations identify the needs and priorities in an area and target budgets more effectively – an idea first piloted in Brazil and used in a number of European cities.

It also explores ideas designed to give people a better understanding of the public sector assets in their area, such as asking public sector authorities to publish a register of their assets and asset management plans.

Views will be sought on giving communities the right to ask local authorities to repair dangerous buildings, and giving authorities better powers to recover the costs of repairs to these buildings, which will allow repairs to take place at an earlier stage and bring buildings back into use.

The consultation also looks at giving local authorities the power to enforce the sale or lease of empty homes, where the property is causing problems for neighbours or is in poor condition, or where there is high demand for housing in an area.  The local authority would be entitled to recover its costs from the sale price or rent.

SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie is encouraging as many people as possible to help shape the bill by responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation.

The MSP for Highlands and Islands, which covers the Machrihanish former RAF base, said:

“Giving people a more direct say in what happens in their own communities is vital for moving our country forward.  Scotland already boasts tight-knit communities that are active, but with these proposed new powers people will be equipped to do so much more.

“That is why I would encourage as many people as possible to participate in the consultation and help shape the bill.

“No-one knows more about what local communities need than those living there.”