11:51 AM, 24th November 2010, About 12 years ago
Despite more than a century of social change aimed at redistributing the wealth of the nation more fairly, most of Britain is still in the hands of the aristocracy.
Only 0.6% of the people – 36,000 individuals – own 50% of the land and show no sign they are ready to relinquish their grip.
Within that small group, the real landed gentry is about 1,200 wealthy individuals and their families who own 20 million of the country’s 60 million acres of land.
The figures are revealed by a ‘Who Owns Britain’ survey by Country Life magazine in what is believed to be the most far-reaching investigation of land holdings in England, Scotland and Wales in nearly 150 years.
The land area owned by aristocrats dwarfs that of the British buy to let portfolio put together by millions of landlords investing in property in the past 15 years or so.
But, according to government figures, buy to let accounts for 14% of the UK housing stock or just over 3 million homes.
At an average current value of £168,000 recorded in house price watch surveys that add up to a total buy to let property holding of £504 billion that is far in excess of the value of estates held by the aristocrats.
Britain’s largest buy to let landlord is Grainger plc, a company that owns £2.1 billion of privately rented properties.
The biggest landowner in Britain – and Europe – is Richard Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury, who has a massive estate rolling over 240,000 acres in England and Scotland.
The estate lists business interests including property development, land management, farming and timber.
Although only slotting in at fourth place on the big landowner’s league table with 133,100 acres, the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate, sprawls across some of the best addresses in London and is worth £6 billion.
The report notes an underlying change in British land holding – with corporate investors buying up large tracts.
Supermarket Waitrose owns a 4,000 acre Hampshire farming estate, while Tesco has built 2,545 stores on 770 acres.
Other groups like the National Trust, with 630,000 acres, and pension funds hold large estates that are unlikely to return to private ownership.
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