1. The Forestry Commission
Owned by the Government-which wants to privatise it-on behalf of the public, Britain’s largest land manager leases 208,895 acres of the 2.5 million acres in its care. Created in 1919, the Forestry Com-mission looks after 1.4 billion trees and has helped to expand Britain’s woodlands by an area more than three times the size of Greater London in the past 20 years.
2. The National Trust
With more than 350 historic houses, gardens and monuments in its care, as well as tracts of coastal, farm- and moorland, the Trust remains one of our most important national institutions. Indeed, 14 million people visit its ‘pay for entry’ properties every year.
3. Defence Estates, for the Ministry of Defence
More than two-thirds of Defence Estates’ land is considered to be ‘rural estate’ and is held solely for the purpose of training the armed forces. Encompassing 3,600 sites, the land-which makes up 1% of the UK’s land mass-includes 171 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), 700 scheduled archaeological monuments, 50,000 service homes and more than 800 listed buildings. It also has more than 700 rural tenants and licensees.
4. The Pension Funds
Many of the UK’s 2,800-plus major pension funds have invested in land for hundreds of years, attracted, no doubt, by a possible rental income of more than 7% per annum.
5. Utilities: water,electricity, railways
Although it has proved impossible to break down the exact acreage of land owned by the UK’s 18 energy, 22 water and 32 rail companies, we estimate the total acreage (think of huge power stations such as Didcot, reservoirs such as Bewl Water and water-treatment works such as the new Thames Barrage site) comes to about half a million acres.
6. The Crown Estate
There is no other organisation
in the world quite like The Crown Estate. With a portfolio worth more than £6.6 billion, it encompasses a wide variety of land, from beef farms in the north of Scotland to offices in the West End of London, from Portland stone mining in Dorset to forests in the West Country, as well as much of the UK’s coastline and some of the sea bed.
It also boasts significant holdings in London’s Regent Street, Regent’s Park and St James’s, as well as agricultural estates of 265,000 acres (made up of 780 tenancies), including the 15,600-acre Windsor estate. Although the rural land holding estate amounts to 358,000 acres, if the acreage of the sea bed, foreshore and urban estate were factored in, the land-ownership figures could stretch to millions of acres.
The Crown Estate ‘belongs’ to the reigning monarch, but it is not the private property of The Queen or the Government. It is independently managed, and its surplus is revenue that is paid to the Treasury. The monarch receives a fixed annual payment in return, which we call the Civil List.
7. The RSPB
The RSPB is not only mighty in terms of its one million-plus membership, its 200 nature reserves cover about 321,237 acres of UK land. Founded by volunteers 121 years ago, the organisation-which is now one of the UK’s richest charities-is continuing to grow at a rapid rate of knots. Last year, The Scotsman reported that RSPB Scotland’s landholding had increased to 124,000 acres from 87,000 acres in 2000, making it the eighth biggest landowner in Scotland.
8. The Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry
Queensberry and Langholm estates in Dumfriesshire, Bowhill in Selkirk-shire, Boughton in Northamptonshire and Dalkeigh Palace, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
9. The National Trust for Scotland
The National Trust for Scotland has, in the past, acquired large areas of land that are bequeathed to it. However, due to recently exposed financial difficulties, it is expected to limit the amount of land it takes on in the future.
10. The Duke of Atholl’s trusts
The Atholl estate in Perthshire.