27 November 2001
Church ‘loses’ land worth 10bn

By Adrienne Francis

MORE than a million acres of land owned by the Church of England have disappeared over the last 129 years, claims a new book.

Kevin Cahill, author of Who Owns Britain?, says the church owned or controlled about 1.5m acres (607,050ha) in 1872.

But the figure, based on the Returns of Owners of Land Act, has dropped to about 130,000 acres (52,611ha).

Some 1.3m acres (554,439ha) of church land are unaccounted for, believes Mr Cahill, whose claim is reported by the Daily Express.

He told the paper: “If the land had been sold it might have been in the Land Registry and could have been located.

“The reason it is so curious is that in theory and in law parish land could not be sold.

“But if such land was sold it had to go into a capital fund, and there is no capital fund to account for it.”

The Daily Express reports that some estimates say the lost land could be worth an estimated 10bn reports.

In a comment piece for The Guardian, Kirsty Scott compares Scotlands land bill with Mr Cahills “devastating exposé”.

Ms Scott writes that Mr Cahill thinks Scotland hasnt “bitten the bullet”, although he advocates a quiet revolution.

But she says “there is a real sense that a corner has been turned.

“The reluctance of anyone to buy the Cuillins is seen as a sign that land is no longer viewed primarily as a commodity.”