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Advising on asset transfers

Published: 24/08/2018

Sandra Holmes, HIE’s head of community assets, outlines HIE’s role in relation to community interest in Cairngorm Mountain.

Community ownership can help local people generate income, deliver services, stimulate development, and grow confidence.

Mostly it happens by negotiation with a willing seller, but Scotland’s unique legislation provides additional routes to community ownership.

Community Right to Buy legislation applies to all assets. Communities can register an interest and then purchase an asset when it is offered for sale, for example Ulva in Argyll.

Asset Transfer Request legislation enables communities to apply any time to lease or buy assets in public ownership; whether or not they are for sale. The Fairy Pools on Skye, where the community bought land from Forest Enterprise Scotland to develop a car park, is a recent example.

The interest in community ownership of Cairngorm Mountain, if it progresses, would likely be an Asset Transfer Request. It is owned by HIE, a public body, and is not for sale.  The snow sports, funicular railway and restaurant attract more than 200,000 visitors a year.

HIE leases the resort to commercial operator, CairnGorm Mountain Limited (CML). As landowner, with responsibilities for this public asset we have invested heavily in the facility, including the current comprehensive review of uplift infrastructure. This will be hugely beneficial in steering future investment and development decisions.

As development agency, we are also determined that Cairngorm provides valuable community and economic benefits throughout Strathspey. While that aspiration appears to be shared widely, there are different views on how it might best be achieved; hence the interest in a community asset transfer.

There are complexities. For example, the CML lease has 21 years to run. A successful Asset Transfer Request would position the community as landlord as well as landowner, for the remainder of the lease term.

As well as being current owner, HIE advises on all aspects of community ownership and has a role in delivering the Scottish Land Fund on behalf of Scottish Government. Under asset transfer legislation, public authorities have a duty to engage with the community interest and provide information to help them develop their application.

In this capacity, we are providing impartial support and guidance, helping the community group to understand and meet the requirements of the legislation, as well as the full range of responsibilities that go with community ownership.

Our role is to help them reach an informed choice and achieve what is in the best long-term interests of the resort, the community and the local economy.

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