Which are the UK’s largest land owners?

I’m expanding my popular How to invest in land guide with a series of short articles. Let’s explore some curious questions about investing in land which I couldn’t squeeze into the original article!

Question 3: Who owns the most land in the UK?

Whether our motivation comes from envy or curiosity, many of us are interested in who owns the land beneath our feet.

Only about 5% of the UK’s land is owned by humble homeowners. The rest is owned by a mixture of corporations, government bodies, charities, and rich individuals.

But which individual person actually holds the most? Let’s dispel the myths about land ownership and take a look at who owns the largest share of the British Isles.

Answer: The largest individual landowner is surprisingly not a British citizen. The title goes to Anders Holch Povlsen, a Danish billionaire and owner of clothing company Bestseller.

The Times reported in 2018 that the Dane had managed to amass a whopping 221,000 acres of land in Scotland over the course of a decade.

The land is mostly unproductive highland, but in acreage this holding gives Anders most largest zone of personal space in the UK.

What type of owner owns most land in the UK?

Anders massive holding, at 221,000 acres is only 0.3% of the UK’s land mass. In this light, learning his identity doesn’t yield much insight into who really owns our land.

Guy Shrubsole became an expert in this area while researching for his book Who Owns England?‘. I’ve drawn upon his analysis for the purposes of composing this answer.

His single book reveals more than we’ve ever known about British land ownership, but the picture remains incomplete. The ownership of 17% of UK land still remains a secret, because the land in question is not yet registered with the Land Registry.

However, we can still learn a great deal by examining the rest of the country.

Answer: The largest group of owners are the aristocrats and landed gentry, holding at least 30% of the soil beneath our feet. It’s also suggested that most of the elusive 17% are also held by those of ‘noble birth’.

This guess is made on the basis that unregistered land is land which has not been sold in recent decades. Land which is handed down from generation to generation would closely fit this bill. Talk about having a long investing time horizon!

Corporations, including energy groups, house builders and retailers own 18%.

Another 17% is in the hands of privately rich individuals, such as Anders Holch Povlsen.

11% is held by a combination of the Government and various conservation charities such as the National Trust.

As stated earlier in this article, home owners claim just 5% of UK land.

Perhaps the most surprising entry on the list is The Crown and the royal family. Collectively, this group only controls 1.4% of the land, according to Guy Shrubsole’s research.

How high would you have expected the Queen to appear on this list?

Other questions

If you’re also interested in investing in property, visit our How to invest in property guide.

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