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15 June 2016

Buy-out under threat

The 2003 Land Reform Act gave crofting communities the right to buy their land- even if the landowner did not wish to sell. The first community to use this controversial and complex piece of legislation were the crofters on the Pairc Estate on Lewis. Almost 13 years after the Pairc Trust commenced negotiations with the landowner, the buy-out was finally completed late last year on the basis of a voluntary transfer.  But just as the crofters thought they could begin to plan for their future, the previous landowner has thrown a spanner in the works.


 

By Iain Ramage, The Press and Journal

 A community trust which bought out a Western Isles estate last year is to be sued for more than £700,000.


Barry Lomas received half a million pounds in a community buyout of the Pairc Estate on the Isle of Lewis last December.


As well as the £500,000 he received from the trust, which raised £300,000 in donations, Mr Lomas also received £50,000 in legal fees from the group.


It was the first buyout under the controversial Land Reform Act and followed often bitter disputes, with the trust having first set out their intentions in 2003.


But now it has emerged Mr Lomas is suing the trust for compensation and legal expenses which he claims he incurred during the buyout.


It is also understood that part of the claim includes an expense for the time he spent on a congratulatory e-mail he sent to the locals after buying their Outer Hebridean idyll.


The trust said it has rejected the claim as they do not believe Mr Lomas is entitled to any payments, however members now expect him to pursue his bid through the Scottish Land Court.


The trust’s outgoing vice chairman, John Randall, said: “Any compensation claim must be dealt with under the terms of the legislation. We’ve spent around £100,000 on legal fees over the 13 years.


“We even think that if Mr Lomas had claimed that amount it would have been on the high side. But we have received a claim for over £700,000 for losses and expenses he says he incurred in dealing with part three applications.


“Our view is that he can only claim for actions he was required to take, and that cuts out much of his claim.”


The purchase of just over 28,000 acres has been the subject to many previous long and legal actions.


A community ballot in 2014 saw 166 people in favour while 77 villagers were against taking control of the estate. Turnout was 62.7% out of a 388 electorate.


The barren and windswept estate has belonged to the Lomas family since the 1920s.


Mr Lomas, from Leamington Spa, inherited Pairc from his father John who died in 2003.

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