Why we must open up the Land Registry

11 Nov

Who owns England?

Historically, maps of land ownership have often been made by the powerful to keep tabs on the powerless. The Domesday Book was drawn up by William the Conqueror as a swag list, counting up the spoils of his invasion as he handed out patronage to his baronial mates. French plans cadastreaux – maps of local land ownership, nowadays available to view in every town hall in France – were started by Napoleon as a means of taxing land.

Today, having a public map of who owns England offers the opposite: a chance for the powerless to hold the powerful to account. The UK land area is some 60 million acres (England, 32 million acres) – around an acre for each member of the population. Yet an increasing number of us, thanks to spiralling house prices, own nothing at all – while around 30,000 wealthy families continue to own some 50% of the rural land. Visualising…

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