Since Part 2 of the Act came into force last summer we have witnessed both vendors and purchasing community bodies endure significant uncertainty and anxiety while the right to buy process unfolds.Those involved in the sales process have succeeded in delivering satisfactory agreements but it is clear important lessons have had to be learned quickly on all sides and this process must continue if sales to community organisations are to become more straightforward as time goes on.CKD Galbraith has been at the forefront of sales activity under the Act and recently completed the sale of Glencanisp and Drumrunie Estates in Sutherland, on behalf of the vendors, to the Assynt Foundation community body.
Iain Russell acted on behalf of CKD Galbraith in what has been the most high-profile and controversial sale under the Act to date.
Russell says: "The sale of Glencanisp and Drumrunie was a protracted and complex issue. Once the Community have started the process, any planning or control over timing by the seller is lost. The process can be frustrating for vendors because you can be in a position when it is unclear whether a community bid is going to be approved by the Scottish Executive and, even if it is, whether the community body wishes to proceed. Equally, community bodies face the uncertainty of having to secure mandates and raise funds.
"On this occasion a satisfactory agreement was reached and discussions were conducted amicably. A great deal of patience was required on all sides and an unswerving commitment and ability to deal with unforeseen issues."
Regrettably, the sale of Newtonhill Woodlands in Inverness-shire to a community body did not proceed, causing considerable frustration to the owner and the prospective purchasers.The Newtonhill Trust was formed in 2004 to buy and thereafter manage the 750 acres of woodlands. A community ballot was undertaken and the decision to buy the woodlands received overwhelming support. CKD Galbraith had marketed the woodlands initially and had received an offer. However, this was withdrawn when the community body expressed its interest. There were several months of constructive negotiations between the vendors and the community body - only to see the sale collapse because the Newtonhill Trust were denied funds by the Scottish Land Fund.
John Bound of CKD Galbraith acted for the owners of Newtonhill throughout. He said: "Following protracted negotiations, after commissioning an expensive feasibility study and despite being consistently encouraged by Highlands & Islands Enterprise and by the Scottish Executive, Newtonhill Trust was turned down in its request for funds by the committee of the Scottish Land Fund. Consequently the owners of Newtonhill were obliged to start the sales process again, after a wasted six months. This was a huge disappointment for everyone involved and sets a very negative precedent for owners wishing to sell major estates or woodland and for prospective purchasers. Many will be very discouraged by the process and its clear shortcomings."
Following the unsuccessful community bid, CKD Galbraith were instructed to start the sale process again on the open market and have been in discussion with prospective buyers.