Gender and Land Rights Database

United Kingdom

Land administration institutions and women quotas

- The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the focal point for rural policy and ensures that rural needs are reflected in social and place-based policies across government. The Department plays a critical role in both European Union (EU) and global policy-making (24).


- The Local Planning Authority is an authority or council that is empowered by law to exercise planning functions, usually in a local borough or district council. Applications for planning and changes to land and building use are decided upon by planning authorities (24).


England and Wales
- The Land Registry was established as an executive agency of the Lord Chancellor in 1990 and as a trading fund in 1993.  The main statutory function of the Land Registry is to keep a register of title to freehold and leasehold land throughout England and Wales. On behalf of the Crown, it guarantees title to registered estates and interests in land. Its main functions are to: i. register title to land in England and Wales; and ii. record dealings, for example, sales and mortgages, with registered land.

The Land Registry also has responsibility for the functions of the Land Charges Department and the Agricultural Credits Department. It maintains registers of land charges, pending actions, writs and orders affecting land and other encumbrances registered against the named owners of property. The Chief Land Registrar is the head of the Land Registry (33).


- Commons Councils, in England and Wales, have functions related to the management of agricultural activities, vegetation and the exercise of rights of common on common land or on town or village greens where rights of common exist.

Commons Councils may also enter into agri-environment agreements, i.e. government-funded schemes under which farmers sign long-term agreements to manage the land in particular ways in order to protect, enhance or restore biodiversity and particular features of the landscape, or to protect the environment in return for annual payments which help offset the additional costs of changed farming practices. They are also able to secure compliance with the conditions of such agreements through their rule-making function. This enables a Commons Council to make legally-binding rules on all those using a common for agricultural purposes, which may be enforced through the courts (22).


- The Land Register was established in 1979. It is a register of titles rather than a register of deeds. Now in operation throughout Scotland, the Land Register involves a one-off examination of the relevant title deeds. A title sheet is created and guaranteed by the State. The title sheet defines the property extent on an Ordnance Survey map and gives details of price, current owners, mortgage details and conditions affecting the property (34).


- The General Register of Sasines is a register of transactions relating to land. Sasine is a legal document that records the transfer of ownership, usually a sale or an inheritance, of a piece of land or of a building. Properties transfer to the Land Register upon sale. This register is being progressively superseded by the Land Register (34).


- The Register of Community Bodies Interests in Land was set up under the Land Reform Act of 2003 [Scotland]. Two types of statutory pre-emptive rights to buy may be recorded in the Register: i. rural community bodies’ rights to buy in terms of Part 2 of the Land Reform Act of 2003 [Scotland]; and ii. the pre-emptive right to buy of agricultural tenants in terms of Part 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 2003 [Scotland]. Each right to buy can only be activated once a landowner has indicated that the land in which there is a registered interest is to be sold.
Applications by tenants in certain types of agricultural tenancies must be made on the appropriate statutory form known as a Notice of Interest. Applications should be submitted directly to the Keeper, for a fee (26).


- The Crofters Commission acts as a tribunal in the regulation of crofting. It regulates crofting, promotes occupancy of crofts and promotes active land use and shared management by crofters.
The Commission, by written consent, regulates all changes in tenancy of a croft for every proposed assignation. The Commission also performs assignation, i.e. the permanent transfer of a tenancy from one person to another. In a normal year, 300–400 croft tenancies are assigned. In over half of these, the current crofter passes the croft to a member of his family and the majority of the remaining tenancies are transferred to people already known to the crofter.

There are seven Area Commissioners plus the Commission Convener, all appointed by Scottish Ministers and supported by the Commission’s Chief Executive and Management.

The Commission’s Register of Crofts contains an entry for each registered croft giving the name, location, rent and the extent of each individual croft. The name of the tenant and landlord are also recorded, as are any forestry developments on the common grazing (30).


Northern Ireland
- Land tenure registration is recorded in three separate registers in Northern Ireland: the Registry of Deeds, the Land Registry and the Statutory Charges Registry. These registries are a component of the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

- The Land Registry is the office for registering the ownership of all land in Northern Ireland. It is under the control and management of the Registrar of Titles, as provided for by the Land Registration Act of 1970 [Northern Ireland].
The Registrar may summon any person whom he may consider to be necessary in connection with any matter relating to registration under this Act, for examination under this section and may, by like summons, require any person to produce for his inspection any document in his custody or under his control relating to that matter.


- The High Court and the county courts, in matters regarding their jurisdiction, are responsible for dealing with appeals filed on Registrar’s decisions.
The Registrar may resort to the High Court regarding doubts or questions of law arising in the course of registration (13).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography