The Crofting Commission is pledging to become more active.
At its Board meeting yesterday (Thursday December 3), the Crofting Commissioners agreed the recommendations from a short-term working group on crofting Duties.
The recommendations are:
- The Residency and Land Use Team will target non-returners of the Crofting Census, with priority being given to those who have repeatedly failed to return their Census form and whose contact addresses clearly indicates they are in breach of the duty to be ordinarily resident.
- The Commission will review its policy on the letting of vacant crofts with a view to requiring owners and landlords of vacant crofts, or parts of crofts, to let the croft, where they have little physical connection with, and make little use of, the croft.
- We will look to streamline suspected non-residence to progress it more quickly to the stage of issuing a written notice of suspected breach of duty. Timescales for carrying out duties work are largely determined by the Crofting Acts and the Commission recognise that the period for taking up residence must be reasonable.
- Where information relating to a possible breach of duty emerges during the course of processing a regulatory application, it will be investigated by the Residency and Land Use Team.
- The decision to allocate more resources to the Residency and Land Use Team, will enable the Commission to target land use as well as non-residency. The Commission will liaise with RPID to obtain the use of their aerial photography to assess where areas of land appear to be overrun with weeds, bracken, and rushes.
Convener, Rod Mackenzie, said, “being able to add staff resources to our Residency and Land Use Team is a major step forward for the Commission. We are also delighted to see that the vacancies for jobs based in the Western Isles are now advertised (Scottish Government (work-for-scotland.org). I would encourage anyone who has an interest to apply, the old saying if you don’t try, you don’t get.
"Another major step which Commissioners, since their inception have been eager to put into action is to follow up those who do not return their Crofting Census form. There is a legal duty to make this return. Also that we now have resources to look at Owners and “landlords” of vacant crofts who are not subject to crofting duties, but are not living on or making use of the croft. Again this seemed an unfair balance with tenants and owner-occupier crofters.
"Land use is a more complex but we will focus on where there are visible signs of neglect. This is something that folk have been bringing to our attention for a while, so it’s heartening that we are now in a position to do some work on this.
"It will take a bit to time to get everything in place, especially as we are close to the festive holidays, but we are determined to progress this as soon as possible.”