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Aberdeen residents aim for legal history with buyout bid

Lewis Macdonald MSP with Jenny Laing at Bonnymuir Green.
Lewis Macdonald MSP with Jenny Laing at Bonnymuir Green.

A group of Aberdeen residents are seeking to be the first in northern Scotland to use new laws and take over a piece of land central to their community.

Bonnymuir Bowling Green has lain empty and increasingly overgrown since the club which used it closed in 2014.

A trust was soon set up in an attempt to turn the site into a market garden and cafe.

Its members claim the club’s trustees have “refused” to allow them access or consider community ownership.

The site’s trustees say this is because they were already courting a private buyer.

If they are successful, however, the Bonnymuir Green Community Trust would become one of the first groups in Scotland to use new legislation aimed at helping community buyouts.

Rural communities have enjoyed such a law for some time but it was only changed to allow urban groups to do the same in 2015.

It is understood just one urban community has successfully taken advantage, allowing them to buy a church in Edinburgh last year.

Co-chair of the trust, Ingrid Stanyer, said: “It is such a shame that the beautiful green now looks a shadow of its former self and that nobody has been able to use the facility for more than two and half years.

“We have even offered to maintain the property but this has been refused and now the green is overgrown.

“All we want is the opportunity to honour the original gift of the land to the community and build a vibrant, sustainable social enterprise that will continue this legacy.

“No-one can understand the trustees’ position in locking out the community.”

The trust’s application has been backed by a petition signed by hundreds of nearby residents and is expected to be reviewed by Scottish Government officials within the next week.

Co-chair John Wigglesworth said: “We are amazed at the level of support, with more than 500 signatures to support our application collected in a few weeks.

“This made us realise that there was a real desire to keep this special green space in the community.”

Since the application was filed, the group has received backing from a number of parliamentarians and Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing.

North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “Bonnymuir Green is an asset that was created for community use, it is an exceptional area of green space in a built-up area, and the intended buyout has won overwhelming local support.

“That is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to act in line with the best interests and the wishes of local people, and to give this community buyout the go-ahead at the earliest opportunity.”

The solicitor for Ian Haw, one of the bowling club trustees, said: “After the bowling club was forced to close at the end of 2014, an offer was submitted to buy the green.

“This occurred before the coming into force of the legislation under which the Community Trust are now entitled to register an interest in the land.

“Mr Haw was unable to disclose the details of the proposed sale, for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

“The Community Trust has now taken steps to register an interest in the land in terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, and in response to that application, full disclosure of the background to the proposed sale has been made by the Bowling Club Trustees.

“The legal process is ongoing, and it would be inappropriate to comment further on the matter while the application remains unresolved.”

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