Who owns England – one year on, what we now know

It’s been over a year since I started writing this blog. In that time, Who Owns England has had over 100,000 views and more than 50,000 visitors – vastly more than I thought likely when setting out – and has received media coverage in the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Sun, Mirror, Indy, Red Pepper and elsewhere. My huge thanks to everyone who’s read, commented, tweeted and offered words of support along the way.

A special thanks to the wonderful cohort of mappers, data-geeks, historians and land rights activists whose help, expertise, enthusiasm and wisdom has proved invaluable to this blog. There are too many people to thank in full, but I want to particularly thank Tom Kenny, Nick Hayes, Kate Swade, Robin Grey, Miles King, Christian Eriksson, Cat Banks, Gill Barron, Simon Fairlie, Mike Hannis, George Monbiot and Andy Wightman, as well as several folks who’d prefer to remain anonymous but have been hugely generous with their time. Thanks too to The Land Magazine / TLIO who have supported this site with funding. Most of all, I owe a debt of gratitude to Anna Powell-Smith, who has spent countless hours crunching data for the site and who joins Who Owns England as mapping guru and data analyst-in-chief.

So, after a year investigating who owns England, what do we have to show for it? Well, we’ve got some interesting new stats to share with you, but for starters, in case you’re a new reader:

And now, drumroll…

The latest stats on land ownership in England & Wales

For the first time, we can reveal that companies and the public sector together own around a third of the land area of England and Wales. That’s thanks to an FOI request to the Land Registry done by Private Eye journalist Christian Eriksson, who passed us the data (which dates from 2015). We’ll publish the full spreadsheet later this year, when the Land Registry release their Corporate & Commercial dataset as open data. In the meantime, here’s the topline breakdown:

Type of organisation Area in acres
UK corporate bodies (excluding charities & trusts) 12,878,549
Limited companies 6,240,593
Other corporate bodies (central government, Church Commissioners, The Crown Estate, housing trusts, etc) 4,567,751
Local authorities 1,569,544
Industrial and provident societies 247,461
LLPs 136,034
Official Custodian for Charities 36,937
Other (unlimited companies, housing associations, co-operatives, societies) 80,228
Overseas companies (land acquired 2005-2014) 279,523
Of which, total owned by companies in offshore jurisdictions c.230,000

The Land Registry covers both England & Wales, which together total 37 million acres (England is 32 million acres, Wales 5 million acres).

Together, UK corporate bodies and overseas companies own around 13 million acres of land – roughly a third of England and Wales.

But who owns the remaining two-thirds? Aristocratic families and trusts? Farmers? Charities? Householders? It’s clear we still have much work to do…

3 thoughts on “Who owns England – one year on, what we now know

  1. It’s a big ask, and this is amazing and very important work. How about Scotland & Northern Ireland? Interesting times for The Union with Brexit etc..the close call during the Scottish referendum…. the political nature of landownership as a ‘creator of wealth’ can be traced / linked historically to The Act of Union 1800 that saw the carve up of Ireland during ‘The Plantation’ consolidated into an established order. Northern Irish Estates still hold huge tracts of land, benefiting from all manner of agri-subsidies and tax breaks. The established ‘Unionist’ land-holding order in The North of Ireland are a formidable force, and even currently NI politics plays a huge role at Westminster…all linked through a political philosophy that places property rights above people {human} rights…discuss :}

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