Landowners reap benefits of soaring British land prices

Britain’s landowners have emerged as the biggest winners from the country’s largest yearly increase in national wealth on record, sitting on assets accounting for more than half of the country’s overall fortune.

The UK’s net worth rose by £803bn over the course of last year to stand at £9.8tn at the end of 2016, driven by a sharp increase in the value of land, contributing to the biggest annual rise since records began in 1995, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The value of land has increased more than fivefold over that period, outstripping the increase in the worth of the properties overlying it.

The value of the country’s wealth has risen steadily over the past two decades, barring small setbacks during the financial crisis which have now been left well behind.

Total land value has recovered from a fall of almost £1tn recorded in 2008 amid a crash in house prices during the credit crunch, recovering to its pre-crisis peak in 2014 and rising by £280bn over the course of 2016 to stand at £5tn.

The ONS analysis measures the total net worth of the country by estimating the market value of financial assets, such as loans, and non-financial assets, such as land and dwellings.

The stark illustration of the gains made by land owners come days after Tony Blair endorsed the idea of a new “land value tax” put forward in Labour’s last manifesto to help solve the country’s housing crisis.

The former Labour prime minister said the new tax – which would be a levy on underlying land rather than property on it – should replace council tax and business rates to create a “fairer and more rational system of property taxation”.

Blair said the new tax, which sees the value of underlying land taxed rather than property, should replace council tax and business rates to create a “fairer and more rational system of property taxation”.