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This Land Ain’t Your Land (Part 1)

Written by: Stewart Borland
Published: 22nd September 2014, last updated: 4th March 2019

this land 3

The British Isles are comprised of 60 million acres of real estate. Who owns it all? The short answer is Queen Elizabeth ll. The Queen, which we call ‘The Crown’, owns about one sixth of the planet’s surface, and is the largest legal land owner in the World.

Although we have come to think of the British Empire as being a ghost of its former self, in reality Elizabeth ll owns only 22% less than Queen Victoria did during the height of the Empire. That’s about 2000 million acres, better known as India. The Queen continues to legally own all the lands of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, 32 other members (around two-thirds) of the Commonwealth, and Antarctica. Feudalism is not dead. It’s just hiding.

In Britain the Land Act of 1925 allegedly gave British subjects the right to two kinds of ownership. Freehold and Leasehold. Let’s have a careful look at these. Freehold is described in the Land Registry Act of 2002 as ‘an interest in an estate in land, fee simple’. Leasehold is similarly ‘an interest in an estate in land, in fee simple, for a term of years’. Fee simple is the important phrase here. It’s a medieval phrase which puts limitations on ownership in the form of taxation, police power, Eminent Domain and Escheat.

Eminent Domain (also known as Compulsory Purchase) gives the Crown, or its Government agents, the power to purchase land from the freeholder in the event of necessity. The freeholder has no power to refuse this purchase. Escheat occurs if the freeholder dies without heirs. The property then automatically reverts to the feudal lord who is immediately superior, or in modern parlance – The Crown.

Freehold and Leasehold do seem in principle to be about long term ownership, but in reality are both a form of feudal tenure bestowed on us by the Crown. At any point the Crown can take back your land if it is deemed a necessity. During the Second World War the government, acting on behalf of the Crown, seized 11 million acres of British land. Compensation was minimal, and in some cases not paid at all. No one complained. It was wartime.

Within the freehold market land ownership has changed rapidly in the last 150 years. In 1872 an illuminating report (called The Return of Owners of Land) was compiled about land ownership in Britain and then for some strange reason it was rubbished by an Oxford scholar, buried and never referred to again. That was until a tireless Irish journalist called Kevin Cahill wrestled a copy from the back of a dusty library. The report informed him that the British Isles of 1872 was held by a mere 4.2% of its population. 94% of the population held nothing at all, not even a shed. Today 70% of the population have some amount of land, usually with a house on it. This is a huge shift, partly due to the beneficence (if you can call it that) of the Land Act. But this is not the whole story.

Of the 60 million acres of the British Isles, 70% of us owns less than 5%. This is around 3 million acres of mostly urban development. The idea that land is scarce in Britain is a myth. There’s loads of it. Just think about that the next time you stare out of a train window.

The largest freeholder in Britain is The Forestry Commission, owning around 2.5 million acres. Then comes the National Trust with 630,000. Close to them is the MOD with 592,000 acres of land acquired for military uses during wars and never given back (in the name of the Crown). Large pension funds and utility companies hoover up another million acres, and the RSPB has a surprising portfolio of 320,000 acres. The once powerful church has a mere 120,000 acres, though it’s now claiming mineral rights to half a million acres of land it used to own. The Crown’s declared lands add up to something like 677,000 acres when you include the Queen’s duchies and private estates. But all this land added together amounts to only 6 million acres, just 10% of Britain. So who sits on the rest?

see part two…

About the author

Written by: Stewart Borland

Comments on this post

  • Douglas Harris
    31/10/19 - 19:17

    It is my understanding that large tracts of land is simply held in private hands without paying any form of tax. Laws need to be introduced to add another band of council tax. Lets be fair. The road networks that provide access to the land have to be maintained. They should pay a fair share

  • Douglas Harris denier
    18/11/19 - 09:48

    Why should tax be paid on land unless there is revenue being generated? Think about the implications of your position. If all land ownership is taxable that would mean that land could only be owned for commercial purposes or by the rich who could afford to pay the tax (but would probably right it off against other costs). Your idea would mean that any wild lands wetlands natural habitat etc. Any land that had not been developed would be under financial pressure to be developed. Horrible idea.

  • Hunter
    19/01/20 - 20:33

    This idea that all lands should be taxed is more instilled ideas from being a trained subservient. No land should be taxed, in fact taxes without representation is bs, the queen wants her cut, just like it used to be 100s or 1000 years ago. If all lands should be taxed then without money you dont have a right to live? This system is wrong and needs changing. Every born person should have a family entitlement of land and anything over a certain amount can then be taxed. If you live inside corporate territories then taxes are ok for infrastructure. But goverment missmanages funds all the time.

  • AL
    24/02/20 - 18:33

    Frig the queen, who gives her the right to own anything in Canada. It was all stolen from the Indigenous and then they shipped over the slaves to manage the land. Everything in our corrupt society is taxed and regulated. Its all a scam and they can do it cause we all don’t know shit about how things work and how freedom is really supposed to be. BTW the gas tax is supp to pay for the roads like 40% of what you pump is tax. BS

  • Sandra Stanley
    14/03/20 - 22:27

    How about that! And here’s me thinking I owned my little bit of Aussie land!

  • Peter McBride
    06/06/20 - 15:04

    The queen owns land in the same way that banks own the money you use. But the rules around their use are set by people we elect – not appointed by the queen. Without the backstop ownership of the crown we would have lots of mini states appearing with their own Defence Policy

  • Brenda
    21/10/20 - 23:17

    I’m a Borland descendant and darn right it don’t belong to the Queen. She ain’t even really in charge anymore. She can go polish her dress up crown for all I give a @@@@!

  • Geoff Toase
    26/11/20 - 21:37

    The question of land ownership is central to any progress towards a new paradigm that would facilitate the realisation of genuine democracy where individuals are free to cooperate or not, deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgements, convictions and interests dictate. If the philosophic fiction of an inalienable right to life (as per the Declaration of American Independence) is accepted by a nation the principal source of the nation’s subsistence, the common domain or a material interest in it, is the means of securing that inalienable right to life. If the common domain is annexed by the State, exceptional individuals or corporate interests that right is extinguished, the individuals right to life becomes dependent on the vagaries of another’s personality.

    Any part of the common domain that is exclusively occupied requires the titular owners (the citizens of the nation if an inalienable right to life is embraced) to be compensated for their exclusion from it, with ground rent and subsistence. If a country’s land was nationalised (owned by its citizens, not owned by the State or exceptional individuals or corporates) then equity demands that ground rent be paid to every citizen from payments by those who exclusively occupy land and deny unrestricted access to the public. The rent’s sole purpose would be the payment (from every life-time leaseholder, public and private) to every citizen of ground rent. For example in the UK it would be collected annually from those holding leases on urban, pastoral and arable land at say (£7/acre) and from those whose leases contain a built environment (based on the actual area of hard standing or the area on which a building sits (£70/acre) in order to raise £0.6 billion to pay the British £10 p.a. ground rent.

    There would be no need for anyone to move, in the case of the UK the legal notion that the UK is ultimately owned by the monarch as their feudal hereditament (the settlement of 1066) would be replaced by the legal notion that the UK area is owned by the British (not the Monarch or the State) as their incorporeal hereditament (as the monarch presently owns most – not all – of their territory). The monarch’s technical ownership of UK area would be extinguished (the position of the monarch as a Head of State need not be affected) by an Act based on the human rights legislation successfully employed against the Duke of Westminster in 1985 at the ECHR. Incumbents, individual or corporate, would become lifetime 1st leaseholders (instead of a freeholder or leaseholder who holds land of the monarch) of the areas they presently control and be able to sell or gift the lease.

    For example; with a ground rent of £7/acre on their present holdings, the Duke of Buccleugh would pay at least £2mn p.a., Duke of Athol £1mn p.a., Duchy of Cornwall £0.95mn p.a. and the Duchy of Lancaster about £0.33mn p.a. (if they retained exclusive use over all the land they presently lease or hold freehold title to). The average detached house would pay about £3 p.a., the average terraced house £1.5 p.a. Farm holdings in the UK range between 50 acres (£350 p.a.) and over 250acres (£1,750 p.a. or over). Owners of flats in multi-occupancy buildings would pay their (much reduced) proportion of rent on the land occupied by the building and hard standing (£70/acre) and any open ground surrounding it (£7/acre) if the public were excluded. Access to clean air, fresh water and subsistence food and shelter would be guaranteed by the State in recognition of the commitment by the individual Briton of their means of subsistence (if an inalienable right to life is embraced) to the creation of the State.

    Constitutionally protected possession of property in the State for every citizen would facilitate genuine democracy since subsistence would be assured from the entities that deny them the ability to provide for their own – they would be free to cooperate or not, deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgements, convictions and interests dictate and since the desire for disposable income is a widespread human phenomenon there would be no shortage of citizens wishing to engage in gainful employment in order to acquire it – under conditions and a rate of pay they are prepared to accept. The two fundamental characteristics of a Nation-State are the sum of individuals that form the Nation and the territory encompassed by the State. The two features of genuine democracy are a general territorial property right (to guarantee subsistence) and its effective protection by the State’s written constitution..

  • Rick
    16/01/21 - 11:45

    The Queen or any government cannot claim any country, you ask anyone in the world where did OUR planet come from, and they will tell you God made it, or the Gods made it.
    So how can any “Human” own the World or even part of the World.
    For anyone to claim ownership of any part of our Planet, then they do not Believe in God, because they would be stealing from God.
    So who gave these people permission to claim ownership of OUR Planet.
    You ask any religion around the world and they will tell you the same thing, God gave us (mankind, animals, insects and plants) this Planet to live on.

  • Grizz
    26/01/21 - 03:57

    well if your going to bring God into it. Satan has the deed to the world as was made plain when he offered it to Jesus in his temptation. Further on in, the bible tells you of Satan’s many fortresses in the world.

  • Nathan Hastings
    29/04/21 - 08:54

    The notion that land can be owned or conveyed is an artificial construct.I think this might be why land ownership is not a part of the international human rights charter as it may actually be undefined. If we could paint the world with a “fair brush” and there was some state whereby humans would share an equal portion of habitable space and the resource thereof, humans would be entitled to a portion of all economic activity severally and individually. The point is, there is an aspect of wealth and land that belongs to all that inhabit the earth. The amount of privilege an individual possesses is dependent on the offset from a ceratus peribus established by some value containing square-feet per human and apportioned global GDP and other factors. Humans may convey space and raw materials one to another in an effort to pool resources to effect a greater overall outcome.Today we live in a world where land is unrighteously owned and individuals possess massive amounts of wealth that does not belong to them. I dont know what to do about it, for now…every time I buy groceries, I give a stranger $40.00

  • Anthony j hill
    03/10/21 - 00:50

    Think we need to look at relationship that did happen with king george and mohawks of the grand river. 1710 are four kings,ancient treaties with anglos- Saxons,are relationship with the 13 royle familys

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