One thousand years of history have failed fundamentally to change the system of private land ownership established in Britain by William the Conqueror. Scratch the surface and you will find large, private estates continuing to dominate rural land ownership in many parts of Britain . What is more, when newcomers move into land ownership, they tend to adopt the attitudes towards their land developed on the large estates over many centuries.
In my book This Land is Our Land, I charted the many and often vicious struggles over land rights witnessed in Britain and also in other parts of the world. I also examined both the value and the limitations of the social contract over the countryside which grew up in Britain in the 20th century, embodying public rights over common land, the town and country planning system and rights of way. I went on to advocate a new deal between landowners and landless. Key elements in this new contract were a general right of access on foot in the countryside except in areas where harm might be done or privacy unacceptably invaded, and a rural land tax-and-grant scheme. This aimed to generate cash for non-profitable rural activities such as conservation, landscape reconstitution and informal outdoor recreation provision by taxing land-based activities which make money or are considered undesirable. My proposal was modelled on the land taxation system advocated by the American 19th century radical Henry George.
This Land is Our Land (1987, Grafton Books; 1997, A Gaia Classic: Gaia Books)
'Who Owns the Countryside' (New Society, 28 February 1986)
'Pursuit of the Gentry' ( The Times Higher Education Supplement, 7 August 1987)
'Trust at Bay as Townsmen Close' in (The Times, 13 December 1990)
'Hunting the Hunters' (The Times, 1 January, 1992)