Who owns the world?

Critical Thinking tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Tue Nov 12 14:35:58 GMT 2013


owns the 

Land ownership in the UK remains concentrated in 
few hands although those hands have changed over 
the centuries. Corporate and foreign ownership is 
on the rise. The author of the following article 
has also written a book on global land ownership 
which, according to wikipedia, discloses that 
Queen Elizabeth II is the legal owner of one 
sixth of the land on the Earth's surface. Land 
ownership is one of the 
flaws at the root of the economic system and yet 
recording who owns what remains an inexact and 
incomplete process in the UK; some may argue deliberately so.


wikipedia page refers to his questioning the 
official narrative of the assassination of 
Conservative MP, Airey Neave, which was ascribed 
to the IRA. Cahill suspected possible MI5 and MI6 
involvement. Worth further investigation if 
someone has the time and interest. False flag 
attacks aren't the exclusive preserve of the US 
intelligence agencies, 
are they a novel 



A lecture on Who Owns The World 1

Who really owns Britain?  Tuesday, 16 November 2010  By Kevin Cahill

Country Life has discovered a huge change in 
land-holding patterns. Kevin Cahill, author of 
Who Owns Britain, reveals who really manages our country

When Who Owns Britain was originally published in 
2001, the Government was forced to admit that the 
Land Registry did not possess information about 
the total acreage of land in England and Wales, 
nor records as to the ownership of at least 35% of the two countries.

Now, nearly 10 years on, we are told that more 
than 24.7 million acres-or just under 75%-of land 
is subject to a register of title with the 
Government agency. However, as compulsory 
registration was brought in on a regional basis 
-beginning with parts of London in 1890 and the 
rest of England and Wales by 1990-a piece of land 
that has not changed hands or been remortgaged 
since the date when it became compulsory to 
register in that particular area of the country 
may not have been registered at all. Therefore, 
although the Land Registry aims to reflect 
another 618,000 acres through voluntary 
registration in 2010/11, we may never know 
exactly who owns how much of the British countryside.

‘It's important to point out that Land Registry 
deals solely with land, not ownership details. We 
register land, not "people", and therefore do not 
quantify "how much" land is owned by any 
particular person or company,' says a spokesperson.

What we do know, however, is that the aristocracy 
and the Royal Family still play an important role 
in the ownership of our country. More than a 
third of land is still in the hands of 
aristocrats and traditional landed gentry. 
Indeed, the 36,000 members of the CLA own about 
50% of the rural land in England and Wales.

What is also clear is that, for all of us-not 
only the very rich-the pursuit of land is as 
important as it's ever been. And, according to 
leading estate agents, an increasing number of 
overseas buyers feels just the same way about 
owning a slice of the British Isles.

There are few more elegant or eloquent statements 
about the role of family-estate ownership in the 
modern age than that made by Lord Clinton of the 
Clinton Devon estates in Devon. It is ‘to secure 
the long-term prosperity of the estates and the 
people who live and work on them in ways which 
care for the countryside and assist the wider 
community'.Where the Clinton estates, winners 
this year of both a Queen's Award for Enterprise 
and a Sunday Times award for Best Small Business 
to Work For, have led, others are following. 
Edwin Christmas, land agent for the Grosvenor 
Eaton estate, says that ‘we have a duty to the 
community of people who live and work on the 
estate' and adds: ‘This requires a long-term 
commitment to our communities.' At a time when an 
increasing volume of rural land is passing into 
corporate hands, this reminder of the way Britain 
was once run, and still is in some places, is 
significant. In perhaps the most extensive 
research for many years into how rural Britain is owned, and therefore managed,

Country Life has discovered a huge change in 
land-holding patterns, one that will shape the 
future of rural Britain for years to come, and is 
little understood. The key change is from family 
estates into corporate estates, often, as in the 
case of the National Trust, run from a 
centralised headquarters. That is coupled with 
the likelihood that the land in corporate 
ownership will never return to private ownership, 
notwithstanding the Coalition's plans to 
privatise the Forestry Commission's 2.5 million 
acres. Inevitably, and with the best will in the 
world, corporate ownership is management 
dominated, and, as such, deeply influenced by 
people with careers to mind, not permanent places 
in a local community to consider.

But, before embarking on the present situation, 
here is a little of the very-little-known history 
of landownership in rural Britain, and the 
changes that have occurred to that ownership. The 
starting point for this is 1872, when Parliament 
commissioned a second Domesday Book of the UK 
(see box). Unlike the original Domesday Book of 
1086, which treated all land as owned by one 
person, the king, the second one, properly titled 
The Return of Owners of Land, listed, in four 
volumes, the owners of all land above one acre in 
size in the UK. What this showed on analysis was 
that the rural UK was almost entirely owned and 
managed by family estates, some of them very 
large. But what it also showed was an almost 
complete absence of State or corporate ownership. 
Seven of the 11 largest landowners in modern 
Britian did not exist 100 years ago, and all, 
such as the National Trust, are corporate estates.

The British Empire, the largest the world had 
ever known, used a mere 165,000 acres of the 
country to house and train its entire military 
force. Compare that with the current holdings of 
the Ministry of Defence, which are 592,800 acres 
in the UK and 250,000 leased acres in Canada.

Of the estates extant in 1872, and which formed 
almost the totality of the rural world, some were 
of great antiquity, especially in England. 
Estates such as those of the Grosvenor family in 
Cheshire, or the Clintons in Devon, were formed 
in the century immediately after the Norman 
invasion of 1066, and are the living roots of the 
country's history. They were also the structure 
that nurtured the British nation, for good and ill.

But, above all, they were locally organised. The 
tenants knew who their landlord was. They met him 
in church, they saw him at the local fair, and, 
often, he was there when rents were paid. And not 
all were male. There were huge estates in female 
hands, such as Baroness Willoughby de'Eresby in 
Lincolnshire with 132,000 acres, and Mrs Preston 
in Devon with 11,000 acres. About 10% of rural 
Britain was female owned in 1872. And now? The 
exact number of acres in foreign ownership, or 
corporate ownership for that matter, and the pace 
at which it is increasing are hard to determine. 
This is because the Land Registry for England and 
Wales as well as that of Northern Ireland has no 
record of who owns about 50% of the rural land 
area. Defra knows because you get no subsidy if 
you can't demonstrate some rights of ownership, 
but it's not data that's shared with other 
agencies. In Andy Wightman's study of 
landownership in Scotland in 1996, there were 25 
estates of more than 12,000 acres in foreign 
ownership. The largest five of these, with more 
than 300,000 acres held, were owned respectively 
by Canadian, Dutch policy in relation to its 
tenant farms. According to the board-which 
includes David Fursdon, whose family has farmed 
the same Devon estate for more than 700 years-The 
Crown Estate is targeting specific measures to 
sustain and enhance important habitats and 
encourage biodiversity. It is one of the largest 
rural landowners in Britain, with 265,000 of its 
acres in agricultural areas and more than 780 
tenant farms. ‘The board tries to employ a 
holistic approach and offers awards for farming,' 
according to Roger Bright, its chief executive.

The National Trust, with its 3.8 million members, 
is the largest membership organisation of its 
kind in Europe. With 630,000 acres, most of them 
in rural areas, it's the second largest landowner 
in the country. Among its many satisfied tenants 
are mother and son Valerie and Alan Watkins, who 
run the Radnor Arms pub in Coleshill, as well as 
their own microbrewery, the Halfpenny Brewery, in 
nearby Lechlade. Mr Watkins describes the 
National Trust as landlords who go all the way 
with you. ‘The building, converted from a smithy 
in 1949, is very old, and when we set out to 
create the brewery and the pub, we found the 
National Trust totally supportive.'

The Duchy of Cornwall, set up in 1337, has about 
133,602 acres, mostly in the West Country. The 
jewels in the crown are the Isles of Scilly, 
where the Duchy is closely engaged with the 
entire local community in both urban and rural 
planning. The Duchy Council has names that 
everyone in the rural community will recognise. 
Sir Nicholas Bacon is the Lord Warden of the 
Stannaries, and chair. Beside him sit David 
Fursdon, the Duke of Westminster and the Countess 
of Arran, a well-known Devon landowner.

To deal with rural matters, the Duchy has a 
specific Rural Committee, whose aim, according to 
the estate, ‘is to provide local contacts and 
local management that is always accessible to the tenants'.

The most widely known landed estate in Britain, 
although not the biggest, is the Grosvenor 
estate. With 133,100 acres in the UK and more in 
Canada, Australia and many other places, it's 
easy to forget that the estate is probably one of 
the largest farmers in Cheshire, and has 
extensive holdings in Scotland. It is one of the 
few really big estates headed by a woman. Lesley 
Knox becomes chair of the corporation in January 
2011, having joined the board in September. She's 
well known in the City, and is a director of both Hays Plc and Alliance.

There has been an extraordinary revival in the 
importance of the rural family estate in the UK. 
With that revival has come an adoption, by some 
of the largest corporate estates, of the core 
values of the family estate; proximity to their 
tenants, care for both the rural community and 
the landscape, and business practices that are sustainable, not predatory.

In search of the most valuable acre

In the countryside

It might be hard to believe, but Knight Frank's 
head of rural property research, Andrew Shirley, 
says that even the price of central London's best 
residential property can't keep pace with 
farmland, which is able to double in price.

‘At the beginning of the past decade, an acre of 
decent, but not outstanding farmland, was worth 
about £2,500 per acre. Since then, prices have 
grown steeply and, according to our farmland 
index, now sits at £5,769 an acre-£7,000 per acre 
is not uncommon.' Savills' market research paints 
a similar rosy picture, with prices of £9,000 an 
acre being achieved from prime arable land in the 
South-West this year and £9,600 per acre for 
prime dairy land in the North-West. And, although 
fewer than 100,000 acres of farmland a year are 
now traded in England, leading estate agents are 
starting to notice subtle changes in the sort of 
people buying prime agricultural or sporting property.

‘Farmers are still the primary occupiers of 
farmland,' says Crispin Holborow, head of 
Savills' country department. ‘However, farms in 
parts of the UK, such as the West Country, are 
now often bought by what we term the amenity or 
hobby farmer, who is looking to live in a 
well-positioned house with up to a few hundred acres.

‘In Scotland, estates were historically bought 
for the sporting opportunities provided by hill, 
loch and river. Today, such buyers can be 
competing against a new wave of environmental 
buyers, for whom it's all about maximising the 
ecological value and re-establishing traditional habitats.

‘For buyers of English estates today, it's about 
owning the trophy asset, which must work as a 
home, but also at least hold its value. In many 
cases where a traditional landed family does 
choose to sell, it's not due to a lack of funds, 
but more to do with primogeniture. Gone are the 
Downton Abbey days where the property must be 
passed onto a male heir or even just the eldest 
child. Dividing assets equally between children 
is much higher on the agenda, which often leads 
to a sale. More estates are now owned by a 
younger generation, which has often had 
successful careers in the City; they bring with 
them a wealth of commercial knowledge that's used 
to market the estate and, in many cases, develop 
an estate brand. ‘UK buyers remain strongest in 
this market, but they can be in competition with 
Western and Eastern Europeans, as well as Asians, 
who are just beginning to show some interest.'

The credentials of grouse-moor owners haven't 
changed much in recent years, according to Frank 
Speir, director of Prime Purchase, although 
leasing sporting rights is increasingly popular. 
‘There have been a few high-profile sales to 
overseas buyers in the past decade, but they're 
the exception and very few moors are marketed,' 
says Mr Speir. ‘Most owners prefer to retain the 
ownership, but will consider letting a moor on a 
long lease, say, for one generation, in order to 
generate some income. It's now fair to say 
leasing moors is more common than selling in the 
current market. Long leases appeal to foreigners 
who are prepared to spend money on grouse 
shooting, but don't want the responsibility of 
owning an asset. Likewise, leases are often 
popular with those who have made money in the 
City and regard grouse-shooting as the ultimate sporting challenge.'

In the City

‘Addresses such as Lennox Gardens and Lennox 
Square in London's Belgravia fetch consistently 
high prices of £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000 per 
square foot,' says Liam Bailey, head of research 
at Knight Frank. ‘Areas such as Belgravia (right) 
and Knightsbridge have built up a high quality 
reputation over time, because of the 
architecture, the heritage and the fact that a 
lot of the property in such places has been very 
well maintained by great estates such as the 
Cadogan and the Grosvenor.' Earlier this year, an 
apartment at the Candy brothers' exclusive One 
Hyde Park development sold for a whopping £140 
million. The sale is believed to have set a world 
record this year of more than £6,000 per square foot.

Traditional properties in northwest London 
locations, such as St John's Wood, are also 
achieving high prices. ‘Last month, an 
unmodernised 10,000sq ft post-Second World War 
mansion on one acre in Compton Avenue sold for in 
excess of its £15 million guide to an Eastern 
European,' says Jonathan Hewlett, head of London 
sales for Savills, adding: ‘This year, in prime 
central London, we have sold nine flats between 
£10 million and £16 million, 60% of which were sold to international buyers.'

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