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Land reform top of the agenda at Area Committee

12th February 2014

The first item on yesterday's Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee was Land Reform with the meeting starting with a presentation by David Cameron, Convener of Community Land Scotland. Members then took the opportunity to discuss in particular the overview of land reform issues in Sutherland.

Since The Land Reform (Scotland) Act introduced rights for both Communities and Crofting Communities to proceed with land purchase under certain circumstances, six Council owned properties in Caithness and Sutherland have been handed over to local community groups.

The properties are:

. Helmsdale Community Centre
. Embo Community Centre
. Kyle Centre in Tongue
. Tongue Sub-depot
. Site for National Nuclear Archive, Wick
. as well as land at Helmsdale for a Housing project

In its Programme, Working Together for the Highlands, the Council highlights its commitment to promoting and assisting with land reform and to achieve this it has become an associated member of Community Land Scotland in order to further the cause of land reform across the Highlands.

The Community Land Scotland membership in Sutherland currently includes:

. Assynt Foundation - 44,400 acres in community ownership
. Durness Development Group - with interest in MOD lands at Cape Wrath
. Mackay Country Community Trust.

The Leader of Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee, Councillor Deirdre Mackay welcomed the opportunity today to raise awareness of the Community Right To Buy scheme and hear more about the impact land reform has had for local communities as well as looking at the work the Council and other organisations are doing to support communities achieve their goal.

She said: "It is important we understand the regeneration opportunities publicly-owned land might offer communities and encourage and assist any of our communities who are considering taking this step.

"I am keen to encourage more community ownership in our area and as such to share more widely with local people the benefits and developmental opportunities associated with land ownership."

"Here in Sutherland since 2010 the Council has over-seen the transfer of five properties to communities in Helmsdale, Embo and Tongue. Everyone can learn a lot from sharing experiences and hearing how successful community enterprises have managed the transition."

The committee noted that the Government's Land Reform Review Group will be publishing a report in April and decided today to invite the Group to come to present their findings to the Area Committee.

Last June the Council sponsored a Community Land Scotland Conference at Sabhal Mor Ostaig and this year it will be partnering Community Land Scotland to run a series of community seminars across the Highlands to promote the benefits of land ownership and provide technical advice and guidance. Details for these events are to be confirmed but they will be taking place from the end of March onwards in Portree, Durness, Helmsdale, Ullapool, Fort William and Aviemore.


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