The history of the Pairc community purchase of Pairc Estate in Lewis is a long and tangled saga, beginning in early 2003 and eventually reaching a successful conclusion at the end of 2015. From the beginning, Pairc Trust would have preferred a voluntary agreement with the landlord to buy the Estate on behalf of the community, but this was not possible in the early years. Therefore, we concluded that the only lever we had to try to effect a purchase was to use Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
At various times during the nearly 13 years of the buyout, the landlord entered into discussions about a voluntary transfer. However, it was only in 2013, following the Court of Session’s rejection of the landlord’s appeal against the Scottish Government on human rights grounds, that serious discussions got under way again and eventually came to fruition in December 2015. Some of the key milestones in the long story since 2003 are set out below.
* 2003 – Pairc Trust established to pursue a community buyout.
* 2004 – 1st ballot confirms community support.
* 2005 – Application under Part 3 of Land Reform Act submitted to Scottish Government for part of the Estate, but legality of an interposed lease set up by the landlord referred to the Land Court.
* 2007 – Land Court find that the interposed lease is legal and Land Reform Act amended to give communities the right to purchase such leases.
* 2007 – 2009 – Landlord agrees to discussions about a voluntary transfer, but eventually Pairc Trust conclude that the landlord is delaying in the hope that his commercial wind-farm project is approved and the value of the Estate greatly increased.
* 2009 – 2nd ballot approves community support for updated Part 3 applications to purchase both land and interposed lease.
* 2010 – Applications for purchase of the land and interposed lease under Part 3 of the Land Reform Act submitted to Scottish Government, taking account of changes in legislation.
* 2011 – Following lengthy consultations, Scottish Government formally turn down the now outdated 2005 application and approve the updated 2010 Part 3 applications. However, the landlord appeals against the Scottish Government’s decision and the valuation process is stopped. Landlord’s appeal heard in Stornoway Sheriff Court and referred to Inner House of Court of Session.
* 2012 – Court of Session rejects first part of landlord’s appeal against Scottish Government on human rights grounds.
* 2013 – Discussions resume on a voluntary transfer of the whole Estate. Non-binding Heads of Terms are agreed and endorsed by the community, and a fund-raising campaign is launched.
* 2014 – 3rd community ballot approves draft offer to purchase the land and lease based on the Heads of Terms, the fund-raising campaign continues, and a detailed, expensive, and time-consuming mapping exercise is carried out to meet Register of Scotland requirements.
* 2015 – Following extensive legal negotiations, missives are exchanged for the whole Estate and interposed lease. Date of Entry depends on settlement of the landlord’s reasonable legal expenses, which are referred to the Interim Auditor who makes his determination on 5th November. Funding package finalised on 30th November, and title to Estate formally taken by Pairc Trust on Friday 4th December 2015.
Dr Bob Chambers has been writing a history of the buyout, which the Pairc trust and other organisations involved have contributed to. It is hoped to be published in 2017.