Throughout the last twenty years the extent of land ownership in the UK has declined dramatically. Between the First World War and the end of the Cold War there was a massive expansion and contraction of state held land in the UK. At its height, in the Second World War, the UK held almost a third of the entire country’s land mass (Stafford, 1977). However, in reaction to the post-war land redistribution in several other countries, particularly in the West Indies, left-leaning economics have promoted the transfer of more state land to private owners and the increased transnational mobility of capital.

Who Owns The Majority Of Land In The UK?

There are two broad forms of land ownership in the UK: land ownership by individuals or companies and land ownership by the State. Private land ownership in the UK has grown steadily over recent years, with the growth of private rented accommodation and regeneration projects in inner cities. The construction of new houses, flats and townhouses is an obvious example of this trend. The impact of this growth on land ownership and land rent is set against the relatively stable supply of new homes, resulting in a reduction in the demand for land. Between the Second World War and the early 1990s there was a net decline in the overall volume of new builds, with only a few exceptionally large projects being launched. This has resulted in a reduced amount of house building over recent years, leading to a drop in the availability of property on the market.

Types Of Land Ownership

The main type of land ownership in the UK is ‘household’ land, which includes landholdings such as a mortgage, partnership interest, freehold land held by corporations. There are two basic forms of land ownership in the UK, tenancy based and right of first refusal. Tenant land is commonly known as ‘credit’, as it is usually the land which is secured by the credit agreement, such as a lease from a builder. Right of first refusal land is more commonly known as ‘abeyance’ land, because it is the land which is released in accordance with an abeyance order, which is a court order after the decision of an auction.

Landowners do have certain exclusive rights of ownership, notably freehold property or ‘fixed fee’ land. This is the most common form of land ownership in the UK where a lien is placed upon the property, requiring the owner to pay a fixed sum of money every year in return for the right to use the property. A typical example of a tenancy in England is a leasehold property. A typical leasehold property is one in which the tenant (landowner) has the right to occupy the property till the end of its term, usually a year, but in some areas a longer period is permitted.

Landowners And Their Overall Rights

Landowners also have ‘rights of potential ownership’ over unoccupied land, which are much like ‘lexicaceous rights’. These would include but are not limited to, right to develop the land, and right of use. It is possible to hold an estate in this way, so long as the land itself is not used commercially. An unoccupied piece of land can be purchased in this way, even if the original owner has never had the rights to use the property.

Land ownership can also be described in terms of ‘common law’ as well. A few well-known examples of this are common council land and common government area. The powers of the council over a piece of land can be vast, including the power to allow or prohibit development on the land. In many cases, this power is shared between several local owners, or tenants. Common law land ownership is rarely exercised in the UK today, but it can be a major consideration in some cases.