Legal agreement changes could bring a big boost for young crofters on Skye looking to build their own homes.
Crofting Commission chiefs have welcomed the decision made by the Highland Council’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee to remove the use of legal agreements under section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 when issuing planning permission on croft land in the Hinterland.
Crofting Commission Chief Executive, Catriona Maclean, commented: “This is good news for many crofters in the Hinterland.
"The review of this policy will help crofters to secure loan finance for building a home as the existence of section 75 agreements is problematic for many lenders. This change, along with the increased support in the Croft House Grant Scheme and the Highland Self Build Loan Fund, provides important financial assistance to attract and retain people in our crofting communities and also in helping crofters to fulfil their duty of living on or close to their croft."
The decision has also been welcomed by the Scottish Crofting Federation whose spokesperson said: “Removing the use of Section 75 agreements imposed by the Highland Council on planning consent to build a croft house is, by and large, a good thing, especially for young crofters trying to build their first home.
"The compulsory agreements were designed to stop speculation on croft land but proved to be too blunt an instrument. Several of our younger members got planning consent to build their croft house but then found it impossible to get a mortgage as lenders are shy of the Section 75 burden. Handicapping young crofters like this was not the way to go and it is a relief that Highland Council have decided to drop it."
However, convinced that more still needs to be done the Federation added: "We do urge them to use the power they have to stop speculation though."
“Access to housing is one of the five crofting priorities that the Commission and other stakeholders presented to the Crofting Minister at the end of last year as an essential component to secure the future of the crofting system.
“The Crofting Commission recognise the difficulties that are faced by crofters who want to build homes on their crofts and we have taken a number of steps to support them. We have had discussions with banks and mortgage lenders to try to ease the difficulties crofters have in obtaining finance and we held a planning summit with local authorities from across the crofting counties to highlight the needs of crofters and how we can balance housing need with land management.
“We welcome the Head of Planning at Highland Council, Mr Macleod’s desire to work with the Commission on this matter and we are extremely pleased that the Council recognise the positive contribution that crofters make to the sustainability of both the rural economy and communities.”