Power to the People!

Ever dreamt of what you would do with the abandoned building in your neighbourhood? In 2018, new legislation will come in to force giving communities significant power to buy abandoned, neglected, or detrimental land. What opportunities will it offer for your local area?


The first Community Right to Buy in Scotland was introduced in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. It enables community bodies to register an interest in land (this includes buildings) so that when that land becomes available to buy, the community has first refusal to buy it to benefit the community.

The Act has since been subject to amendment, most significantly by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. This also introduced the new Community Right to Buy ‘Abandoned, Neglected or Detrimental Land’. Under this legislation, a landowner may be forced to sell his property if it is ‘wholly abandoned or neglected’, or if the use or management of the land is causing harm to the environmental wellbeing of the community. Scottish Ministers will make the decisions about what land is eligible, based on whether the purchase of the land is in the public interest and will further sustainable development.

When thinking about taking on ownership of land or a building it is important to be objective and to think about whether it would be a success in the long term. There are a number of questions to consider:

  • Who owns it?
  • What is the current state of the building?
  • What is the significance of the building, is it listed?
  • Is the building’s size and layout suitable for your purposes?
  • If not what would the cost to alter it be?
  • Is there strong support from the local community to save it?
  • What would the ongoing maintenance, operational and running costs be?
  • Will it be financially sustainable?

You will need a variety of skills to progress your project and achieving success will involve resourcefulness, tenacity and patience. Luckily, there are lots of organisations who can help! Having the support of local people is also vital, as they know the area best and can bring a range of skills, experience and knowledge to the project.

There is no doubt that taking a building into community ownership is a major undertaking and you will meet challenges along the way. However, if you succeed you will not only safeguard the future of the building, you may well create a fantastic new community asset too!

Find out more:

  • Come along to our community event ‘Power to the people: Understanding Community Right to Buy’ at Govanhill Baths on 14 March. Hear from a variety of organisations about what land is eligible, which community bodies can apply and the process for doing so. There will be opportunity for discussion and to learn from other communities that have taken on ownership responsibilities.
    This event is free to attend, all welcome! No booking required. Click here for more information.
  • The Community Ownership Support Service, Development Trusts Association Scotland provides support, information, resources and case studies.
  • The Right to Buy is part of the Community Empowerment Act
  • The Architectural Heritage Fund promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, through advice, grants and loans.

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