“Who owns land gets to choose how it’s used; and that has big implications for almost everything. Where we build our homes, how we grow our food, how we protect ourselves from flooding, how much space we set aside for wildlife – all this is hugely affected by who owns land.” Guy Shrubsole
Who Owns Wales – Pwy Bia Cymru? has been a question that has bothered me for a number of years, but it really came to the forefront of my mind when I was doing research into community energy projects in Wales and Scotland.
Ownership of land was a topic that raised its head on a number of occasions. To be able to develop a community energy project, a community needs land on which to site their turbine, or rights need to be obtained for the use of the riverbed for a hydro project, or a roof needs to be leased for a solar array. On many occasions, land and asset owners were obliging enough. On other occasions however, there was not so much cooperation. It seemed unjust that landowners had the power to block the ambitions of a community. It felt a very antiquated relationship between those who conferred ownership of land and resources, and those who lived within that landscape.
The research opened my eyes to the power and influence that can be wielded through owning large pieces of land and led me to look at investigations and campaigns in this field.
Inspiration for this website comes mainly from research pursued by our neighbours, especially Guy Shrubsole’s work on the Who Owns England blog (and his follow on book) and Anna Powell-Smith’s data analysis and mapping. Before that, there was Kevin Cahill’s seminal work in the book ‘Who Owns Britain’ (and a more recent publication looking at the role of corporations and ownership in ‘Who Owns the World’) and Andy Whightman’s Who Owns Scotland. Another book that has influenced this website is Alistair McIntosh’s Soil and Soul, which retells the pursuit of reclaiming land (and the entire Isle of Eigg in Scotland) for local communities to be able to develop locally beneficial projects.
There has been, to my knowledge at least, no attempt to gather data, research and resources in one place to draw a concise picture of Who Owns Wales – Pwy Bia Cymru. Whereas our neighbours have become much more literate regarding ownership issues in recent years (and what that entails in terms of determining how that land is used), it feels that Wales could benefit from its own attempt to map and distil historical and contemporary information on ownership.
I hope then, that this webpage will help fill in some of the gaps in knowledge about who owns land and assets across Wales. It will attempt to answer that question by looking at the history, geography and politics of land ownership in Wales. Please get in touch if you would like to contribute.