Five Months!

An Eccentric Anomaly: Ed Davies's Blog

Bleedin' 'el - it's been five months since I last posted about this here plot purchase.

There's a character in Catch 22 who lives his life as boringly as possible to make it seem longer. My experience is to the contrary - if you're just waiting and doing as little as possible to save money time seems to fly by.

Anyway, when I last posted at the beginning of March (Limbo Dance) the purchase had been put on hold pending sorting out the croft status of the land. Ideally it'd be decrofted before the sale but a reasonable indication that it'd be able to be decrofted soon afterwards would be a good second best.

As it was not possible to decroft owner-occupied land at that time the vendor applied to divide the croft so as to be able to sell me the part as originally envisaged. This division was actually suggested by somebody at the Crofting Commission, a point which adds a tiny bit of insult to the injury that follows.

Given that the land already had a decrofting application in, which had gone through the early stages (advertising in the local press) and was being held in abeyance only pending sorting out of the law, I was happy to buy it in a still-crofted state.

The cogs turned. At the end of April I had a short telephone “interview” with a chap from the agricultural department from Thurso in which I explained all of my plans. He was pleasant and interested and said he'd pop-in a supportive report quickly.

Finally, on June 6th came D (as in “division”)-day: the official split of the croft into two parts. Two days later the vendor called to say he'd got the letter confirming it and after a tiny faff between us over me getting a copy of the right part of the registration documents I asked my solicitor to put in a new offer on the 11th.

(For comparison, in 2010 on June 9th I agreed the price on the sale of my semi in High Wycombe.)

There's a bit of a discrepancy between the plans for the croft-division, which match the vendor's idea of what land he currently owns, and the deeds. Fortunately, the deeds seem to show him owning a bit more land so in theory it's not my problem. It's not land which anybody would care about - though larger than the plot containing the house I had in High Wycombe it's a tiny scrap by local standards and completely useless and overgrown with a bit of a water filled quarry in about a quarter of it so if there ever was an argument I'd expect both parties would be wanting the other to own it. Whatever, it gives the solicitors something to write to each other about.

In theory there was the possibility of somebody appealing the division within 42 days. That was, of course, highly unlikely but still it'd not have been sensible to exchange until that period had timed out but it was well worth getting everything else lined up in readiness.

(In 2010 we exchanged contracts on July 19th and completed on the 26th.)

On August 5th the vendor called me to say that his solicitors had replied to mine about the deed discrepancy. More interestingly he had a bit of an update on the croft situation with bad news and good news.

The bad news was that if the sale went ahead then the decrofting application which was held in abeyance would be cancelled. They couldn't just transfer such an application to a new owner.

However, the good news was that the Act to fix the law on the subject had just received royal assent and therefore the decrofting would be able to go ahead pretty quickly. How quickly was not clear - he'd call back the following day when somebody more familiar with the case was in (the person actually dealing with it was off for the week). Still, left feeling quite good about the situation.

The next day he called again. More bad news: because the croft had been divided (at the Crofting Commission's suggestion, remember?) the decrofting application was no longer valid and needed to be restarted anyway. To be fair to the CC bod who'd suggested division, there'd been a lot of uncertainty about how long the law was going to take to patch (I saw something suggesting November, somewhere) so division probably wasn't a bad idea at the time.

Straight away I emailed the Crofting Commission asking if there was any reason to think that a new decrofting application immediately after a sale would be any less likely to go ahead than one now. I haven't received a reply yet - presumably because the person dealing with the case was off last week. I hope I'll hear something next week.

It just keeps on being just a few more weeks.

Update: 2013-09-07: Helpfully the lady at the Crofting Commission got back to me at the beginning of the following week (August 12th). She responded to email quickly and was encouraging in that she said that she'd put forward the whole history of the case to the Commissioners if I wanted to decroft after a purchase. This is important as it seems to me that there could be a rather different attitude to a local farmer wanting to decroft a bit of land to sell in order to expand his herd of cows vs an Englishman who's just pitched up and bought some land and immediately wants to decroft it.

The cogs continue to turn; just a few more weeks.