Lords vs Commoners

Land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world.

This is a call out to groups and individuals all over the country who think the time has come for us to have more control of our land.

In order to draw attention to this injustice, we invite you to organise an event in your area between the 14th and 22nd of April. This could be a public meeting or protest with leafleting or maybe a banner drop, occupation or mass trespass.

Download flyer to print

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On Saturday April 14th, the Land Justice Network will be holding a walking tour of two of the wealthiest boroughs in London, yet where many still live in poverty: Westminster, largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea, where the Earl of Cadogan owns 93 acres.

Visit Faceboook page for the walking tour

Here we can see the massive area that has been taken from the people centuries ago, and now home to some of the richest landowners, investors and property speculators. By accident of birth these privileged individuals inherit a life of luxury, and by use of trusts they avoid the inheritance taxes everyone else is required to pay, so enabling the grossly unequal distribution of land to continue. Is it right that the rich can avoid paying their taxes and that their land and wealth continues to grow at the expense of the rest of society?

More than a third of our land is still owned by the aristocracy, whose ancestors seized it during the Norman Conquest. By fencing off land and using violence to exclude people, landowners (the lords) have deprived the rest of us of what should be a shared resource.

The vast majority of us, the commoners, own little or nothing. Even most of the land that was once declared common land (for local use) has been taken away from us. Land in community use, such as hospitals, fire stations, school playing fields, is increasingly being sold off for the short term profit of private developers.

Land issues are central to much inequality and environmental degradation in society today. Landowners control and exploit our natural resources and force the rest of us to be beholden to them for food, shelter and other needs. Despite their huge wealth, our taxes are used to pay them £billions in ‘farming’ subsidies and housing benefit, increasing inequality still further.

In the countryside, large landowners dominate agriculture, squeezing out small farmers and collective farming. Agriculture workers are poorly paid and struggle to find housing that they can afford. Huge tracts of land are turned over to grouse moors to provide the rich with space for their destructive pasttimes. Our freedom to walk and enjoy nature is largely restricted to a limited network of ‘rights of way’.

In the cities, land is also unequally distributed, owned by a combination of traditional aristocrats and their modern-day equivalent: offshore companies and institutional investors. Increasingly homes are now owned by buy-to-let landlords rather than by individual home owners or social landlords. All of this forces up the cost of living for those who have to rent. Tenants have little security with standard tenancies running for just 6 months.

There are no controls on rent, so now on average people pay a quarter of their wages to their landlord, while in London its roughly half their salary. Even those who manage to buy their own home rarely own it outright until late in life. Most people are stuck paying a big chunk of their salary on their mortgage every month, with the worry that if they lose their job they could lose their home too.

In the last 6 years homelessness has dramatically increased. It is obscene that in this day and age so many people do not have a secure home. This could be achieved if the £9.3 billion a year paid in Housing Benefit to wealthy landlords was instead used to build social housing in all communities.

Urban areas also need well managed parks, community gardens and allotments, so that everyone has access to nature and the opportunity to grow food. But increasingly these spaces are being sold off or rented out to private companies for events, damaging the parks and shutting out residents for lengthy periods of time.