Barriers to community land in Scotland Report 2015

Many types of community activity in Scotland, such as the development of community gardens, housing projects, and renewable energy initiatives, require access to land. However, the transfer of land rights and responsibilities from landowners to communities can run into difficulties. A report by James Hutton Institute social scientists highlights the different types of barriers communities can face when pursuing land-based activities and how they might be resolved.

Both the Community Land Advisory Service in Scotland and the Scotland office of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens contributed to the study, contributing to both the current Land Reform Bill debate and the Scottish Government’s target for one million acres of land to be under community ownership by 2020.

The report identifies 24 barriers which may arise and classifies them into four sets: those relating to deficiencies in ownership rights (e.g. unknown or unclear ownership, divided ownership rights); the strategies of landowners (such as retention for alternative use); external constraints on communities (e.g. inability to raise funding); and those arising from internal community characteristics (such as lack of community capacity or differing community aspirations).

Co-author Dr Annie McKee said: “Analysis of over 75 case studies of community schemes showed that the importance of each barrier varies by community activity. Multiple ownership is a particular problem for footpaths or cycle paths in rural areas while gaining sufficient community funding is a key issue for community housing developments.

“Divided ownership rights, multiple ownership, constraints associated with planning and higher community liabilities were found to be a particularly significant barrier in urban areas.

“There were also differences found in the types of barriers associated with land in public and private ownership with public landowners tending to be more risk-averse yet supportive of community initiatives and also progressive in terms of developing lease agreements.”

Professor Deb Roberts, who also co-authored the report, commented: “The research highlights several different resolution strategies that can be used to overcome barriers to community activities including external mediation and consultation processes. The report provides a better understanding of the types of problems that might occur in developing community land-based activities and effective ways of resolving issues should they arise.”

The report Exploring Barriers to Community Land-Based Activities is available for download from the Scottish Government website.




© Community Land Advisory Service 2018