Current Land Usage & Issues: UK & England

Overview of Current Land Usage

To grasp the intricacies of land issues in England, it’s essential to begin with a comprehensive understanding of the latest land usage data.

Central to this discussion is the distinction between developed and non-developed land. Developed land encompasses areas transformed for various purposes such as transport, utilities, residential, and industrial uses, constituting 8.7% of England’s total land area.

Conversely, an overwhelming 91.1% of land remains classified as undeveloped. This category encompasses diverse landscapes, including agricultural land, forests, open spaces, and bodies of water.

A minuscule portion, merely 0.2%, falls under the classification of Vacant Land, highlighting the scarcity of available land awaiting development or designated for specific uses.

Proportion of land use by types in England (DLUHC, 2022)

(Land Use Statistics – Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, 2022)


Percentage of land by land use group

Land Use Data

(Land Use Statistics – Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, 2022)


Current Issues With Land In England

Decline of UK Farmland

Agricultural land in the UK is rapidly diminishing, with the country losing 64,000 acres of agricultural area per year over the past two decades. This decline can be attributed to several factors, including the expansion of transport infrastructure, property development, woodland expansion, and conversion for non-agricultural purposes.

Transport infrastructure projects, such as roads, railways, and airports, are encroaching on valuable agricultural land, leading to its conversion for non-agricultural purposes. Additionally, urbanization and suburban sprawl continue to consume fertile fields, converting them into residential, commercial, and industrial areas.

Woodland expansion, driven by conservation efforts and afforestation initiatives, further reduces the available agricultural land. This competition for land resources, along with conversions for non-agricultural uses like renewable energy projects and leisure facilities, intensifies the pressures on farmers and poses challenges for food security and rural livelihoods. Addressing these issues requires strategic planning, policy intervention, and sustainable land management practices to ensure the continued viability of agriculture in the UK.


The Rising Price of Land

The UK’s land prices have seen a dramatic escalation over the past two decades, as reported in the following article. From 1995 to 2015, land values soared from 1 trillion to 5 trillion pounds. This surge reflects a number of factors, driven by a soaring demand for land within the UK.

This steep ascent in land prices is fueled by a combination of factors, including rapid population growth, urbanisation, and economic expansion. The relentless demand for land, coupled with its scarcity, intensifies competition among buyers and inflates prices further, creating a seller’s market where premium prices are commanded.

A speculative investment in land has become increasingly prevalent, with investors eyeing it as a lucrative asset class offering significant returns. Such activity exacerbates land price inflation, affordability challenges for homeowners, businesses, and developers. Addressing this issue demands a comprehensive strategy that encompasses measures to boost land supply, curb speculative investment, and promote sustainable land use planning to mitigate its adverse impacts on housing affordability and economic inclusivity.


The Housing Crisis and Land Availability

In the ongoing discourse surrounding the UK housing crisis, there’s often a multitude of factors cited as contributors to the problem. However, midst the complexities of policy debates and socioeconomics analyses, one fundamental truth emerges: the decline in the supply of land stands as the root cause of the crisis.

Contrary to popular belief, the crux of the issues does not solely lie in the decline of subsides or the nuances of housing tenure. While these factors play a role, they are pale in comparison to the profound impact of dwindling land availability on housing development.

Across the UK, urban sprawl and population growth have placed unprecedented pressure on available land for residential development. As demand for housing continues to surge, exacerbated by demographic shifts and economic factors, the supply of suitable land fails to keep pace. This mismatch between supply and demand serves as the bedrock of the housing crisis, driving up property prices, exacerbating affordability challenges, and perpetuating social inequalities.


The English Planning System

The English planning system is currently a significant obstacle, hindering the efficient allocation of land for new homes and exacerbating the housing crisis. With its presumption against development, construction activities face stringent requirements for explicit planning permission, leading to prolonged delays, increased costs, and uncertainty. This restrictive approach severely limits the supply of land available for housing, contributing to skyrocketing property prices and persistent shortages nationwide.

Moreover, the planning system’s complexity and bureaucracy result in inefficiencies and inconsistencies in decision-making by local planning authorities. Balancing growth with environmental protection, infrastructure provision, and community interests becomes challenging, leading to fragmented and contentious planning processes. Projects often face opposition and delays, exacerbating the housing shortfall and affordability crisis.

Despite government initiatives like the National Planning Policy Framework, progress remains slow, and housing targets continue to be missed. Urgent reform is needed to streamline processes, increase transparency, and empower local authorities to deliver housing efficiently. Without meaningful change, the planning system’s obstacles will persist, deepening the housing crisis and hampering economic growth.



In examining the current state of land usage in England, it’s evident that the vast majority of land—91.1%—remains undeveloped, encompassing agricultural areas, forests, open land, and bodies of water. Developed land, constituting 8.7% of England’s total area, is crucial for transport, utilities, residential, and industrial uses. Additionally, a mere 0.2% is classified as vacant land, highlighting the scarcity of available land for potential development. These figures shed light on the complexities and challenges associated with land management and allocation in England.

However, amidst these statistics lies a series of pressing issues that demand urgent attention. The decline of UK farmland poses significant threats to food security, rural livelihoods, and environmental sustainability. Factors such as transport infrastructure expansion, property development, and woodland expansion contribute to the diminishing agricultural land area, necessitating strategic interventions to safeguard farming communities and agricultural productivity.

Furthermore, the rising price of land presents formidable obstacles to housing affordability, economic inclusivity, and sustainable development. Speculative investment, population growth, and urbanization fuel land price inflation, exacerbating affordability challenges for homeowners, businesses, and developers alike. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses land use planning, policy intervention, and sustainable land management practices to ensure the equitable distribution and responsible utilization of land resources for the benefit of present and future generations.



Land use in England, 2022 – GOV.UK (











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