Practical advice on how landowners, land managers and communities can together reach decisions about land use has been launched by the Scottish Land Commission.
A new protocol and toolkit from the Commission supports the Guidance on Engaging Communities in decisions relating to land, published by the Scottish Government in April last year. It is the first in a series of protocols that the Commission will produce to encourage practical implementation of the principles in the Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS).
The first protocol focuses particularly on principle 6: "There should be greater collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land". It highlights the benefits for all parties of genuine engagement: for landowners it can reduce potential conflict, help make businesses more resilient and promote innovation; while communities will be better informed and people will have a better opportunity to engage, understand and influence potential change and opportunities.
The accompanying toolkit comprises a "decision map" detailing engagement methods and what is expected of landowners and managers in different situations, and a guide to engagement plans to support the community engagement process.
Scottish Land Commissioner Sally Reynolds explained that the protocol defines standard good practice for engagement over land use and management.
"Early and open engagement by those who own or manage land with the local community should be part of normal business practice", she commented. "Everyone benefits from knowing about decisions that might affect them and by working together and engaging in a process, it is easier to make progress.
"We have devised the protocol and the toolkit to clearly show the practical approach to engagement expected when changes to land use are being explored.
"We believe it will promote an open approach to decision making, all of which is a vital part of increasing the accountability of landownership and making the most of opportunities."
As an illustration of good practice in terms of the principles of community engagement, the Commission cites the East Neuk Community Action Plan (ENCAP) Steering Group in Fife, which has successfully brought together landowners, community groups and others into community-led planning. The East Neuk Estates Group forged strong relationships with community groups, responded to the priorities they identified and integrated these into their own estate and land use plans.