Land Management

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 28 June 2007.

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Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party 11:40, 28 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will examine the Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003 and other legislation as appropriate to ensure that home owners have protection and recourse from land management companies that have sole rights to manage land. (S3O-397)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

It is clearly important for the amenity of housing developments that common areas of land are well managed and maintained. The Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003 provides a legal framework for the conditions found in title deeds, but house purchasers and their legal advisers should ensure that there are adequate arrangements in the title deeds for the management and maintenance of common areas when buying property. Similarly, home owners should seek legal advice as to whether land management companies are meeting their obligations under the title deeds or other contractual arrangements.

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for his answer but, with respect, I press him to state today or undertake to consider further what he can do to assist the 1,000 residents throughout West Lothian whose title deeds bind them indefinitely to the land management company Greenbelt which, according to my constituents, is woefully failing to deliver a service for which they are forced to pay. Neither the law nor their title deeds appear to offer any easily identifiable, accessible or affordable solution. Perhaps the minister will agree to meet me to discuss the issue further, given that it is complicated.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I am grateful to Angela Constance for raising the issue—she is quite right to do so. Although the Scottish Government cannot intervene in matters of private contract dispute, it is nonetheless absolutely clear from Angela Constance's representations and from sporadic complaints that the previous Scottish Executive received from members of various parties that the problem is serious. The Scottish Government recognises that poorly managed or neglected open spaces not only fail to meet the needs of communities but can inhibit regeneration and development. I would be happy to meet the member to hear more specific details. If any other member of any party wants to make representations to me about Greenbelt, I would be happy to meet them.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

The minister might be aware that I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth about this matter—I look forward to his reply. When decisions on land management are being made, can house builders be made to accept their responsibility to home buyers such as my constituents in Armadale and Bathgate, who are the customers of Greenbelt, by ensuring that home buyers have some say over who the land management company is and by creating a contract that ensures that home owners have redress should the company not fulfil its obligations?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

As the member knows, those are, in essence, matters to be dealt with between the purchasers of properties, their lawyers and the developers. Mary Mulligan, like Angela Constance, highlights an issue of concern throughout Scotland. Therefore, although the Executive cannot intervene in individual cases, I am extremely concerned to explore exactly what the company is doing to discharge its obligations. The fact that two members of different parties have raised the issue indicates the strength of feeling about it. I will ensure that the company is made aware of this discussion and that the matter is taken forward.