November 29, 2013
UK Running Out Of Land – Get Some Quick
Land is the ultimate finite commodity – they just don’t make it anymore. It doesn’t matter much whether you believe the All-Over-In-Seven-Days Biblical Genesis version or the Cosmological Big-Bang-Everything-Lumps-Into-Celestial-Bodies model, it’s over for now. If you listen to some pundits, the UK is feeling the pinch already. Some would have you believe that Poland is empty and its inhabitants have helped to fill Britain to the brim, that the islands will soon be just a swathe of concrete with people crammed together, stored in high-rise tower blocks between visits to the Megamart or work – that other disappearing commodity. On which point the UK Government recently announced proudly that there are now more people in work than ever before! Wow! What they did not point out is the reason – there are simply more people than ever before. The rate of employment is no higher.
Let’s look at the facts. There are approximately 60 million acres of land in Britain. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published population figures this year showing that there are 63.7 million humans on that space. Excellent! That’s not far off an acre each. I often wonder which acre I would have given a choice. I could go for a patch in the City of London but I think I would go for my favourite bit of England – the top of a “mountain” (don’t laugh) known as Ingleborough for its beauty and seclusion. In truth I am stuck with my hard-earned meagre patch of grass and brick.
Ok, so we can’t all have an acre but it often does feel crowded here. Why is that? Well to start with only 6 per cent of Great Britain is developed. The rest is mostly in the hands of a relatively tiny number of people – often held by aristocratic dynasties in vast estates passed down through the generations for hundreds of years. Of the 60 million acres, 42 million are agricultural and 12 million are what is charmlessly known as “Natural Wastage” land, which translates as forests, rivers, and mountains etc. Most of us are therefore huddled together on the remaining paltry six million acres. Now it’s feeling more crowded especially when you consider that the developed land is where we work, shop, and play as well as sleep. In truth it is even worse than that as most people occupy just half of that six million acres.
So who owns all the land? 69 percent is owned by less than one percent of the population in the form of 158,000 families. Yes, it’s that one percent again! 90 percent of us live on five per cent of the land, but don’t own all that as much of the population rents and doesn’t or can’t buy. Also, UK homes are amongst the smallest in the developed world and very expensive too.
The biggest landowner in the UK (and Europe) is reputed to be Richard Scott the 10th Duke of Buccleuch. He owns 240,000 acres and Prince Charles, aka the Duke of Cornwall. has 130,000. Now come on Dicky and Charlie, surely you can spare an acre for little old me. I will touch my cap in gratitude every time you ride past and I can promise I will never ever eat a Corgi – honest I won’t. I’ll be too busy starting and running the “UK One Man One Acre Society.”