Land Usage in the UK

 The UK has approximately 60 million acres of land in total and 70% (approximately) of this land is owned by 1% of the population. Until recently this land mass was owned by only 6,000 or so landowners, including large institutions and the Crown. However, there has been a recent shift in ownership of land as it becomes a more attractive asset to people other than traditional land owners. It is particularly attractive when it can be bought and sold in acreages suitable for the private investor who wants to buy land for long term speculation.

Land within development boundaries identified in Local Authority Development Plans is open game for developers who can make planning applications for development within the relevant guidelines or who can alternatively make representations to amend the guidelines themselves bearing in mind our national directives. The twenty eight day usage rule also permits landowners to try out innovative ideas, recreational and profitable, without having to obtain any planning at all.


Building land can cost up to 40% of the price of a new home, which means it is vastly more expensive than land without planning permission. Speculators are currently snapping up relatively cheap land without planning, close to existing building boundaries, in the hope that the pressures on the relevant authorities to identify suitable sites for the provision of approximately 300,000 affordable homes by 2010/11 will mean that development boundaries may have to be relaxed. Also attractive to the green-thinking private investor is PPS7, (Planning Policy Statement 7) which is encouraging progressive individual builders to provide eco-friendly and carbon-neutral homes where boundaries are beginning to relax.

Storage: There is a rising demand for storage solutions for bulky and specialist goods such as boats, caravans, containers, vehicles, tyres, coal and fridges!

Wind Farming: Whilst this is a contentious form of development in the countryside a small site can supply enough electricity for personal use. Larger sites are making a profit by supplying the national grid or local area.

Aviation: With flying activities being more affordable and the increasing amount of private planes, helicopters and gliders, there have been a number of new sites in the UK that either run activities or are franchised out to aviation companies.


Farming: Commercial farming is experiencing a boom due to high commodity prices. Many farmers and agricultural land owners in the UK are looking at diversification in their future plans. According to the UK government 2000 figures the highest approval rates for land diversification relate to tourism (85%) and equestrian activities (84%), and the lowest approval rates to storage and haulage (71%).(

Specialised Farming such as ostriches, llamas, water buffalo and snails is beginning to make its mark in some areas of the UK. There is also serious demand for renewable energy sources such as: coppicing for biomass, manure for Methane, Oilseed Rape for Bio Diesel.

Organic Farming: There are approximately 310,000 square kilometres (75 million acres) worldwide used to grow organic crops ( Government support and the public demand for organic goods to sustain a healthier lifestyle have led to a sharp increase in organically nurtured land.

Horticulture: This is experiencing a revival in the UK largely due to the demand for organic growing of flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables and glasshouses and poly tunnels are being erected all over the country. The cultivation of Aromatic plants and their essential oils is a twenty-first century cash crop.

Fisheries: The decline of fish stocks has led to the development of breeding fish on land, so to speak! Crayfish and, surprisingly Saltwater Shellfish, are two of the most popular choices for the novice landowner. However, with expert advice, more complex species including: Crab, Mussel, Prawn, Scallop and Squid can be reared.Irrigation lakes and ponds, man made and natural, are making a splash as landowners have spotted a potential market.

Woodland : is largely protected, and therefore cheaper, but has still been a popular asset to obtain in recent years due to a history of tax incentives (to reinstate areas of natural beauty and provide habitats for flora and fauna).


Equestrian: This leisure pursuit for business and pleasure has grown considerably in the UK over the last decade. Conservation Grants and advice are offered to those who want to develop: Livery facilities, Competition Centres, Off Road Riding, with cross-country jumps. Experienced horse specialists are finding money in Stud Provision and those within suitable locations have set up Trekking Centres.  

Hobby Farming: For centuries this has enticed a certain type of city gentleman into the country. With bonuses achieving an all time high, there has been a rise in the amount of people setting up small holdings purely for pleasure and relaxation.

Fisheries: This is not just about providing a few well stocked lakes anymore. The Environment Agency and leading fishery consultants are helping landowners to restore pools to their former glory. The provision of car parks, cafes and even holiday units on coarse and game fishing sites are turning this leisure pursuit into an attractive business venture.

Touring Caravans & Camp Sites: These are beginning to pop up all over the more picturesque and touristy parts of the countryside, as landowners capitalize on the current abundance of UK leisure time. Sites that have five or less caravans don’t require any planning consent and, under the 28 day rule, larger sites can be temporarily set up.

Adventure Holidays: (ie outwood bounds, childrens’ summer camps) are run by individual landowners or, more frequently, franchised to a specialist company.  

Motor Sports: Motor cycle scrambling and trial riding, car rallying, terrain vehicles and quad bike events are largely using agricultural land under the twenty eight day rule.

Archery and Paint Balling: not to mention cycling and walking are utilising woodland all over the UK but whilst Field, Target and Indoor require little more than open woodland, a flat strip and an average sized barn, Planning Permission must be obtained even for a temporary site and Adventure Games need a Licence!

Cricket, Football, Golf and Tennis: Pitches, greens and courts are popping up all over the UK according to the large number of sports construction companies competing to turn that spare acre into a dream football pitch or a three court tennis site. And, with relevant planning, commercial use on such premises are actually making money.

So what determines land use today? As indicated above, twenty-first century UK land has become increasingly useable in all sorts of ways, limited only by your imagination, wallet and Planning Policy, and definitely not in this order…

source: Anna Donaldson

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