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Land for housing development is paradoxically scarce in rural Scotland; the product of restrictive planning laws and concentrated land ownership.

Securing land for affordable housing at a price which makes development viable can be very difficult for different reasons:

  • land on the edge of commuter villages has often been bought or "optioned" by developers
  • suitable land may be vital to a farm or croft for crops or grazing and therefore not available for housing development
  • estates may be unwilling or unable to sell land because of ownership or operational constraints land
  • land owned by local councils and other public bodies may have to be sold at full market value
  • church land may have to be sold at best value to comply with charity law
  • land which is zoned for housing may be too expensive to make an affordable housing project viable

In recent years, the Land Reform Act, has enabled many rural communities to buy their land. This has resulted in huge areas of Scotland being brought into community ownership, with much of the Western Isles now owned by the communities who live there. And where communities have taken on the ownership of their land this has provided the spark to their regeneration enabling them to make land available for affordable housing, economic and social development.

  • in Gigha the community after buying their island made land available for Fyne Homes Housing Association to build 18 badly needed affordable houses as well as selling on low cost plots to islanders
  • in Knoydart the community have renovated cottages for affordable rent and built new affordable housing
  • the West Harris Trust are looking at how they can support affordable housing through the release of house plots with restrictions to ensure that the affordability of the housing is maintained
  • on Eigg, community land ownership led to land being released for Lochaber Housing Association to build affordable rented housing whilst the community have also released house plots for low cost home ownership.

Some communities have taken advantage of the National Forest Land Scheme to take over land from the Forestry Commission and in addition to managing woodlands they are looking at how land acquired can be utilised for affordable housing and the development of forest crofts.

There may also be circumstances where it makes sense to lease land from a local landowner; community trusts which are registered as a Rural Housing Body can lease land for housing on a long term basis such as 99 years.

Use our 'Identify Potential Sites' checklist to follow the steps required to identify appropriate land in your community.

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