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WHO REALLY OWNS THE UK?

Becoming a landlord or simply owning a portfolio of property is the dream for many in the UK. It’s easy to see why, as there is plenty of money to be made with the right investments. This is illustrated by the fact that there were over 750,000 property millionaires in Britain as of the start of 2018.

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But even they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

The UK is made up from approximately 60,000,000 acres which certainly seems like enough room for everybody to carve out their property dreams. However, the top 50 landowners currently control 7,331,243 acres which equates to over 12% of Britain’s landmass.

So, who are these people who own so much of the UK? Take a look below to find out.

BREAKING DOWN THE UK’S TOP 50 LANDOWNERS

Aside from their impressive property portfolios, one of the most interesting things about the top 50 UK landowners is the trends that emerge when you look a bit closer at who makes the list…

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Now that we know the groups that make up the top 50 list, it’s time to look at which of them owns the most land in the UK.

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PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

When you’re looking at thousands of acres of land, it’s easy to lose sight of the sheer size being discussed. Here are some comparisons to put these figures into perspective…

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Find out how much land members of the royalty and nobility control below. The top landowners include Queen Elizabeth, the Crown Estate and Hugh Grosvenor 7th Duke of Westminster.

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Foreign interests make up a significant proportion of top 50 places. These include larger companies such as Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, and also individuals like Anders Holch Povlsen and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

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Utility providers in the top 50 landowners control almost 500,000 acres across the UK. Those in the list mainly deal in water and mineral mining. The largest companies featured include United Utilities, MEH Minerals and Severn Trent.

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A selection of British entrepreneurs and large business owners have made the list including James Dyson (technology), Michael Cannon (public houses) and the Rathbone Brothers (investment broker). Here is what their land holdings equate to.

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Charitable Organisations & Environmental Interests control more land than any other group in the top 50. These include the Forestry Commission, the RSPB and the government’s environmental protection and rural affairs department DEFRA.

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With talk of a housing crisis never far from the UK press, perhaps it’s not so surprising that although several housing developers appear on the top 50 list, they are dead last in terms of total acreage. Those that make the cut are Taylor Wimpey, Homes England and the Peel Group.

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The UK Military own a substantial amount of land, set aside for the ‘defence of the realm’. While the vast majority is controlled by the Ministry of Defence itself, the Honourable Artillery Company also make the top 50 list.

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Outside of the other predefined groups we’re left with the Church of England and Oxford University’s Merton College, which both own enough land in their own right to make it into the list of largest land owners in the UK.

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UK LAND OWNERSHIP LEADERBOARD

So, who exactly are the people who own so much of the UK? We’ve compiled a list of the top 50 UK property owners and how much land they control in the table below.

# Land Owner Acres
1 FORESTRY COMMISSION 2,200,000
2 MINISTRY OF DEFENCE 1,101,851
3 CROWN ESTATE 678,420
4 NATIONAL TRUST & NATIONAL TRUST FOR SCOTLAND 589,748
5 RSPB 332,000
6 RICHARD SCOTT, DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH & QUEENSBERRY 280,000
7 ANDERS HOLCH POVLSEN 218,364
8 THE DUKE OF ATHOLL’S TRUSTS 145,000
9 UNITED UTILITIES 140,124
10 HUGH GROSVENOR, 7TH DUKE OF WESTMINSTER 140,000
11 DUCHY OF CORNWALL 135,000
12 DEFRA 116,309
13 CHURCH OF ENGLAND 105,000
14 DWR CYMRU CYFYNGEDIG (WELSH WATER) 77,975
15 JOHN WHITTAKER (PEEL GROUP) 70,000
16 SALTAIRE WATER 70,000
17 CHEUNG KONG INFRASTRUCTURE HOLDINGS 69,294
18 MRH MINERALS 67,935
19 SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL-MAKTOUM 63,000
20 HENRY SOMERSET, 12TH DUKE OF BEAUFORT 52,000
21 SEVERN TRENT 51,668
22 LAFARGEHOLCIM 48,557
23 ROBERT WARREN MILLER 36,000
24 HUGH LOWTHER, 8TH EARL OF LONSDALE 35,269
25 SIR JAMES DYSON 33,000
26 ROGER TEMPEST 25,516
27 ZAMBRANO FAMILY 25,340
28 COUNT LUCA RINALDO CONTARDO PADULLI DI VIGHIGNOLO 25,000
29 ANDREW RUSSELL, 15TH DUKE OF BEDFORD 21,474
30 STEFAN PERSSON 21,373
31 HARWORTH GROUP 21,000
32 EDWARD GUINNESS, 4TH EARL OF IVEAGH 20,664
33 HEIDELBERGCEMENT 20,534
34 CORLAND MINERALS 20,371
35 QUEEN ELIZABETH II 20,000
36 JOHN SAVILE, 8TH EARL OF MEXBOROUGH 20,000
37 HOMES ENGLAND 19,349
38 JOHN CLARK 18,119
39 MICHAEL STONE 18,000
40 SIR LYONEL HUMPHREY JOHN TOLLEMACHE, 7TH BARONET 17,908
41 RATHBONE BROTHERS 17,854
42 OSPREY CONSORTIUM 17,607
43 VALERO ENERGY 17,216
44 MICHAEL CANNON 16,001
45 RICHARD KELVIN-HUGHES 16,000
46 KEMBLE WATER HOLDINGS 15,987
47 PENNON GROUP 15,816
48 MERTON COLLEGE, OXFORD UNIVERSITY 14,707
49 TAYLOR WIMPEY 14,684
50 HONOURABLE ARTILLERY COMPANY 14,209

*Data sourced from Love Money, Who Owns England and additional public records research

The land information contained in the above table is based on publicly available information. Due to the closely guarded nature of land ownership, some people and companies may not feature who would qualify for the top 50. Of those featured, the acreage may not include all of their land holdings but allows us an insight into their substantial assets.

For more information on everything from property tycoons to media mergers and more – visit the ABC Finance blog.

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About The Author

This content was produced by our Commercial Lending Director, Gary Hemming. Gary has over 15 years’ experience in financial services and specialises in bridging loans, commercial mortgages, development finance and business loans. He is widely respected in his field and regularly provides expert commentary for specialist trade publications, specialist business press as well as local and national press.

Gary Hemming CeMAP CeFA CeRGI CSP  -  
Commercial Lending Director