Sustainable Food Guide
|Environmental Practice at Work © 2009|
||Land - Issues
"Soil" deals with the substance of the living ecosytem under our feet. 'Land' deals with the ownership of it. What we can do with the land very much depends on who owns that land....
The near-monopolisation of UK land ownership is still very much the same as it was nearly 1,000 years ago, held tight in the hands and deeds of a tiny hereditary aristocracy. While only about 7.5 per cent of land in England and Wales is under residential occupation, with a population of 47.8 million living on a mere 3.4 million acres, the other 26.9 million acres are owned by as few as 135,000 people.
The largest institutional landowners are The Forestry Commission with 2.4 million acres, then the Ministry of Defence with 750,000 acres followed by the National Trust with 550,000 acres. The Church of England only owns 135,000 acres, down from over 1.5 million acres in the 1870s. The Crown Estate owns nearly 400,000 acres, and is worth over £5 billion, with profits in the region of £180 million per annum.
The largest private landowner is the Duke of Buccleach with 270,000 acres; and the wealthiest is the Duke of Westminster with 140,000 acres in the UK, 400,000 abroad, but most importantly 300 acres of the richest real estate in the world in central London
The Highland Clearances led to the displacement of 500,000 Highland peasants and crofters in the early part of the 19th century, being replaced by sheep. Enclosure of England’s Commons and wasteland began at the time of the Diggers ("In 1649 to St Geoerge's Hill..") and lasted into middle of 19th century. Enclosure occurred at a greater rate in those counties where profits were larger, in particular for produce demanded for the ever-expanding urban industrial areas. More
Does this make for a powerful brake on economic and social modernisation? Cahill attributes the success of the Irish Republic, where "Irish acres are now one third more valuable than English acres, and Irish economic growth four times higher than economic growth in England", to more egalitarian trends in landholding and renewed self-confidence. Kevin Cahill Who owns Britain
Does the ownership of land determine what is grown where? Or is this more determined by capitalist economics?
Folowing the food price rises of 2007-8, many countries are now scouring the world to buy and lease land in other countries. Betweenn 35-40 million acres have already been long-leased by foreign financial investors. For much more see our Landgrab.