The headnote to the Lands Tribunal Act 1949 describes the Act as one “to establish new tribunals to determine in place of official arbitrators and other certain questions relating to compensation for the compulsory acquisition of land and other matters…”
It appears that the Act was promoted because the Government considered that the system for the determination of disputed compensation claims by official arbiters (experts in valuation matters) required to be changed as a result of the legal complexity introduced into land valuation because of the introduction of comprehensive planning controls after the Second World War. The tribunals would be specialised judicial bodies whose membership would comprise both legal and valuation experts.
Under the Act two tribunals1 were constituted — one for Scotland to be called “the Lands Tribunal for Scotland” and one for the remainder of the United Kingdom to be called “the Lands Tribunal”.2 A Scottish Tribunal was not at that time considered justifiable because of the limited volume of work. The panel of official arbiters continued to operate in Scotland.
However, the Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970 required the appointment of a body to adjudicate upon applications to vary or discharge land obligations and to allocate feu duties. It was decided that the power to set up a Scottish Tribunal should be activated for this purpose. It was then sensible for it to proceed with the original purpose as well.
The Tribunal’s work has attained public respect and its jurisdiction has grown by the addition of new areas of work. The jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions of the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland3 has given rise to a variety of interesting cases involving difficult questions of law. The Tribunal was given a somewhat unusual role by the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 when it was empowered to stand in the shoes of local authority landlords who were delaying selling to their tenants. Fortunately this power seldom needs to be exercised these days, but the Tribunal is often called upon under that jurisdiction to resolve genuine disputes in respect of the tenants’ rights to buy. More recently the Tribunal’s original intended role as a body skilled in dealing with disputes over land valuation has seen a new development under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
These various jurisdictions are discussed in a little more detail at Specific Statutory Jurisdictions.
The tribunal comprises a President and such other members as the Lord President of the Court of Session may determine.4 The President of the tribunal is a person suitably qualified by the holding of judicial office or by experience as an advocate or solicitor. The other members are to be persons similarly qualified or persons having experience in the valuation of land appointed after consultation with the Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
- Lands Tribunal Act 1949 section 1(1).
- A Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland was instituted under the Lands Tribunal and Compensation Act 1964.
- Land Registration (Scotland) Act 1979.
- Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970, section 50(1).