Holm Hill – a new dawn for Newcastleton
The negotiated sale of 750 acres of land known as Holm Hill from Buccleuch’s Borders Estate to the Newcastleton and District Community Trust (NDCT) marks an exciting future for this community in the South of Scotland. Community ownership of land ensures local resilience and is integral to regeneration and sustainable development in Scotland. We are committed to supporting businesses and communities like Buccleuch and Newcastleton through our Good Practice Programme, making negotiated transfer of land to communities normal practice.
In 2016, after a review of its assets, Buccleuch took the strategic decision to reduce the organisation’s landholdings over the coming years and reinvest in the business. As part of this, in 2019, Buccleuch identified 25,000 acres of land on Borders Estate which could be sold. Mindful of the importance of community engagement, Buccleuch sought the advice of the Scottish Land Commission and, guided by our Protocol on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land and accompanying route map, carried out consultation with local communities impacted by this decision. Clear interest in community ownership emerged and Buccleuch committed to give the interested communities time to develop their plans. Buccleuch agreed to postpone putting the land on the open market and later signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NDCT. The two parties followed Community Land Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates’ Protocol for Negotiated Sales. Over 11 months, NDCT worked tirelessly, engaging the wider community, fundraising, commissioning a valuation, undertaking a feasibility study and drafting its business plan. Community Land Scotland, Development Trust Association Scotland, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Scottish Land Fund, Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Land Commission provided support and guidance throughout the process.
With overwhelming community support, NDCT was successful in securing the funding required to purchase the land in June 2020.
Sharing the learning
NDCT’s advice for community organisations:
- Engage the community widely: work collaboratively and listen. Feedback is a valuable part of the development planning
- Employ experts who are not afraid to tell you the pitfalls of your plan and be prepared to listen to them
- Keep the landowner informed of progress. They are more likely to accommodate changes to the timeline if they know the full picture
- Seek out other communities who have done this before and ask them about their experience
- Allow plenty of time to complete all the steps in the process. Taking time to build a strong case, backed up with positive financial and social outcomes that meet community need, gives your project the best chance of success.
Buccleuch’s advice for owners of land:
- Establish open dialogue between all parties and their advisors
- Be mindful of the importance of mutually understanding one another’s aims, objectives and timescale
- Develop close relationships with funders to ensure everyone has clear understanding of processes and timescales
- Gather and share all the information that community will need to consider for the purchase. (Buccleuch created a digital data room to give the community access to key documents)
- How you carry out the land valuation is critical. Ensure that you have agreed beforehand on a fallback method
- Create Heads of Terms and keep them up-to-date as further agreements are made.
The community has a comprehensive business plan and work has begun to make these plans a reality.
Steve Hartley, chair of the Trust, said: “This has seen a mammoth amount of work undertaken by many people to get us to where we are today, the culmination of all that work results in being awarded the capital to purchase land adjacent to our village. Community ownership of this land, much of it still used today as it was over 225 years ago, now gives us all a bigger, brighter, sustainable future.”
Find Out More
Barbara Elborn BEM, Secretary
Newcastleton & District Community Trust
Tel: 013873 75642 or 07989 968 756
Tel: 0131 524 0917
Good Practice Adviser
Scottish Land Commission
Tel: 07554 111878