16 November 2001

Concern over Scots land proposal

PROPOSALS by the Scottish Executive to lift the national protection enjoyed by prime agricultural land are causing concern.

The move is part of the Scottish Parliaments forward strategy for agriculture and if approved would see local authorities granted the flexibility to decide whether such land, less than 6% of the countrys total area, should be used for new development.

The Scottish Landowners Federation and NFU Scotland have yet to formulate an official position, but advisers at both organisations expect the issue to split opinion.

Jonathan Hall, rural policy advisor at the SLF, warns: "Given that much of the prime land is in East Lothian and Fife close to a buoyant Edinburgh property market, I can easily envisage house building. It is classic commuter land."

NFU Scotlands policy manager Ian Melrose adds: "While we recognise the importance of the executive promoting diversification we are conscious of the limited availability of prime quality land."

However, a spokesman for an Edinburgh-based land agent reckons the whole issue was a bit of a red herring. "A lot of new building is already happening on the outskirts of towns in the area and everything will still have to be approved by the local planning authorities." &#42