Who Owns England?

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See also: Land Enclosure

Who Owns England? is a blog set up and maintained by Guy Shrubsole and Anna Powell-Smith. They maintain that "Who owns our country matters, because land is a scarce resource and ownership of it often confers wealth, power and influence". And they are right.

Guy Shrubsole: Activist, writer, troublemaker. "In the past I’ve worked for DEFRA, New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and UK think thank Public Interest Research Centre. Currently I’m a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. On Twitter as @guyshrubsole."

Anna Powell-Smith: Programmer, data analyst, map nerd. "My work mapping offshore land ownership for Private Eye was highly commended at the British Journalism Awards. In my day job I work for a startup: for "Who Owns England" I work on data and build the maps. On Twitter as @darkgreener."

The Map: http://map.whoownsengland.org

The Book: Who Owns England? (book review) Mark Avery: "I came across quite a few familiar names.... a clutch of MPs who all spoke in favour of grouse shooting in the 2016 debate triggered by my e-petition to the Westminster Parliament; Benyon, Clifton-Brown, Drax and Bellingham – all land owners, all rich and 3 out of 4 Etonians. There is a lot about nature and how the land is used, misused and abused in this book. But it is essentially about power." Guy Shrubsole, , May.05.2019.

Also well worth reading: "Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else", James Meek, Verso Books, Oct.2014, ISBN: 978-1784782061

Campaigns

Although ownership of UK land is very restricted, public access to it is not - but it's not great, either. Our network of rights-of-way and access land is absent in most other countries including near neighbours. Marion ShoardWikipedia-W.svg calculates that only about 10% of England and Wales is open access land as a result of the CRoW Act. Why should it not be extended to woodlands, to river banks, to rivers, to all uncultivated land - as per Scotland?

The British Caving Association has been campaigning for several years to get the govt and its various quangos Natural England and Natural Resources Wales to recognise that the ‘right to roam’ provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) apply to caves, and the current policy adopted by these bodies and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – that cavers may only enter caves on open access land as far as the limit of daylight – is neither lawful nor an accurate reflection of the intention of Parliament when it passed the Act.ref

EndEmptyHomes.org was launched as a mini-campaign targeting London council candidates ahead of the May 3rd local elections, urging them to pledge to double council tax on empty properties if elected. At the time of writing, scores of candidates have already pledged – please visit the site to see if your candidates have done so and contact them if they haven’t!

Reports

  • Apr.06.2018: The Councils Selling Land Worth Millions to Offshore Companies. It’s estimated that 10 million hectares of public land have been sold in the past four decades, and sales are accelerating. In Gloucestershire, where I live, the council has sold £100 million of land since Apr.2011 and recently announced plans to sell up to £53 million more. Who’s buying it all? I found that since summer 2017, local authorities, government bodies and universities have sold public land worth more than £100 million to companies in Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, Malta and Cayman Islands. This is despite David Cameron promising to end property sales to “anonymous shell companies” in May.2016. These countries are tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. Private Eye, Global Witness and Transparency International have exposed for years how offshore companies hide the true identity of the buyers, allowing ‘dirty money’ to be laundered through the UK. Yet still the sales go on. (List of Councils.) Anna Powell-Smith, Who Owns England?.
  • Feb.2018: How Pension Funds are Land Banking in the Green Belt. Insurance and pension company Legal & General is building up land banks in Green Belt areas, and lobbying councils to rip up planning restrictions. Labour’s proposals to make landowners sell their land to councils at existing use value, to ease the housing crisis, faces strong opposition from landowners, including many pension fund investors, who would be at risk of losing considerable sums on what they expected to receive. Legal & General boast of owning “a strategic land portfolio of 3,550 acres stretching from Luton to Cardiff”. Who Owns England?.

Articles

  • Aug.22.2020: Landowners block plans for coastal path. Natural England's promise to create “the world’s longest coastal footpath” has been stymied by the landed elite, including the Rothschilds, business moguls and some of Britain’s wealthiest aristocrats. Ben Webster, Dominic Kennedy, The Times.
  • Sept.19.2019: Half of England Is Owned by Less Than 1% of Its Population, Researcher Says. Less than 1% of the population owns about 50% of the land - just 25,000, some of them corporations. And many of them inherited the property as members of families that have held it for generations — even centuries. Britain has greater wealth inequality than Germany, France, the Low Countries and Scandinavia — though less than the USA. Scotland, where land ownership is in the hands of even fewer people and organizations, has enacted a set of land reform laws. Most of the European Union is also grappling with concentrated ownership of farmland; in 2010, 3% of farms controlled 50% of agricultural land. Palko Karasz, The New York Times.
  • Apr.06.2018: The Councils Selling Land Worth Millions to Offshore Companies. It’s estimated that 10m hectares of public land have been sold in the past 40 years, and sales are accelerating. Since Summer.2017, local authorities, govt bodies and universities have sold public land worth more than £100m to companies in Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, Malta and Cayman Islands. This is despite David Cameron promising to end property sales to “anonymous shell companies” in May.2016. These countries are tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. Anna Powell-Smith, Who Owns England.
  • Jan.12.2015: Chinese Govt revealed as secret buyer of €270m Brussels Tower. Gingko Tree Continues to Favor European Real Estate. The Brussels deal follows just over 5 months after Gingko Tree Investment Ltd (CH) entered into a joint venture with the UK’s Crown Estate to acquire a shopping mall in England for £345.5m. During 2012 and 2013, the secretive Chinese govt investor is said to have acquired more than $1.6bn in UK property assets and infrastructure, including student housing and office buildings. Much of Gingko Tree’s strategy is mirrored by its higher profile counterpart, China Investment Corporation, which as the country’s sovereign wealth fund has looked to UK real estate assets as source of enhance investment returns. Michael Cole, Mingtiandi.
  • Dec.23.2013: Chinese Investment in London Property up 1,500% since 2010. Research by property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle found that Chinese investment in London real estate had risen over 1,500% since 2010, increasing from $88.2m to over $1.63b at the end of the Sept.2013. The increase made Chinese the 3rd-largest foreign property buyer in the UK, according to the survey. Only Germany and the USA, which invested $1.96bn and $1.79bn respectively, ranked higher. Michael Cole, Mingtiandi.

Privatisation