Crown Land Titles

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Dear Land Registry,
Crown land titles

English land law still retains its original basis, that all land in England is owned by the Crown. Some is in the Crown's own occupation; the rest is occupied by tenants holding either directly or indirectly from the Crown through an estate in the land.

Can you confirm which title the Crown holds to the land as “ owner ” the Legal Title or Equitable Title and which title the “ tenants” hold either the Legal title or the Equitable title to the land.

Yours faithfully,

Mr. Lewis

Mayer, Peter, Land Registry

Dear Mr Lewis
Thank you for your email of 3 March 2016.
Your enquiry does not fall within the remit of the Freedom of Information
Act 2000, so I am treating it as a general enquiry.
As you say, as a result of the vestiges of the feudal system the Crown is
the only absolute owner of land in England and Wales.  Everyone else owns
an estate in land, either freehold or leasehold.  In theory freeholders
are the Queen’s feudal tenants, but in practice this has largely ceased to
matter.  The one time it has an effect is on escheat, the principle that
when there is no longer a feudal tenant, then the property reverts to the
tenant’s lord.  In some cases such as the property of people dying
intestate without an heir, the principle of escheat has been replaced by
statute law, but the result is much the same.
A useful summary can be found in “[1]Does feudalism have a role in 21st
century land law?” by Charles Harpum (Amicus Curiae, January 2000).
The Queen’s paramount title is not capable of being registered at the Land
Registry (Section 3, Land Registration Act 2002), however under a new
provision (section 79, Land Registration Act 2002), the Queen is now able
to grant a freehold estate to herself for the purposes of being able to
register the land.  This is of some practical importance because this will
make it possible to register significant landholdings such as foreshore,
so the Crown can have the same protection against adverse possession
offered by the Land Registration Act 2002 as everyone else (see for
example section 2.7 of Law Commission 271: “[2]Land Registration for the
21^st Century”).
I hope this is the information you needed.
Yours sincerely
Peter Mayer
OCDS Executive, Operations Change Delivery & Support Group
Croydon Office, Trafalgar House, 1 Bedford Park, Croydon, Surrey CR0 2AQ
Telephone: (Ext) 0300 0067257; (Int) 67257

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