Base de données Genre et le Droit à la Terre

United Kingdom

Systèmes fonciers prévalents

- In the whole country, 30 percent of farmed land is tenanted and the rest is owned (11).


England and Wales
- The Crown is the only absolute owner of land in England and Wales; all others hold an estate in land. Estates, which derive from feudal terms of tenure, originally took many forms but were reduced to only two by the Law of Property Act of 1925: i. an estate in fee simple absolute in possession, generally known as freehold; and ii. an estate for a term of years absolute, generally known as leasehold.
Apart from an estate, land may have the benefit of or be subject to other interests, which are rights and obligations relating to the land, belonging to the owner or to a third party (12).

In England and Wales, around 33 percent of agricultural land is rented (29).

Around 550 000 hectares of land, i.e. 4 percent of the total land area in England and Wales, is registered common land (24).
In general terms, common land is land owned by one person over which another person is entitled to exercise rights of common, such as grazing animals or cutting bracken for livestock bedding; these rights are generally exercisable in common with others.

The Commons Registration Act of 1965 introduced the first statutory definition of “common land” as “land subject to rights of common [as defined in [the] Act] whether those rights are exercisable at all times or only during limited periods; and waste land of a manor not subject to rights of common”.

Most common land is privately owned. Owners of commons, often the lord of the manor, enjoy largely the same rights as other landowners, except that common land is subject to “rights of common” held by other individuals over the common and to the special statutory controls that apply under commons legislation. Rights of common have their origin in local custom and include, for example, the right to graze stock, to enable pigs to forage on beechmast and acorns, to remove peat for the hearth, to fish and to collect bracken or firewood.

A total of 1 740 commons, other than the 47 in the ownership of traditional estates, are in private ownership, 679 have private owners for parts of the land, 1 230 are owned by parish and other councils and 431 are owned by a variety of organizations including charities, trusts, etc. Many commons have multiple owners. Up to 1 900 commons have no known owners (24).


- The Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. Act of 2000 [Scotland] changed the feudal nature of the land tenure system of Scotland by prohibiting the imposition of new feuduties and providing for the redemption of existing ones.
The 2000 Act also extinguished many feudal deeds, which impose conditions on the property feued. The superiors and their concurrent rights disappeared, though contractual rights and obligations were not affected. Only the owner continued to have a right to the land (14).

Agricultural holdings in Scotland and the relationship between landlords and tenant farmers have been regulated by a series of Acts of Parliament since the 19th century [Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883 [Scotland]].

Prior to the most recent Act in 2003, the only forms of formal farm tenancies permitted within the legislation were either a seasonal let of less than one year, or a secure “1991” tenancy, which is an arrangement where the tenant farmer has a long-term protected tenancy that is heritable and can only be broken by non-payment of rent or any other material breach of the tenancy conditions. These types of tenancy arrangements had remained very much unchanged since 1949.

The Agricultural Holdings Act of 2003 [Scotland] and the earlier Agricultural Holdings Act of 1991 [Scotland], together provide the basis for a modern framework for the tenanted sector in Scotland.
The legislation provides for four types of formal farm tenancies:
i. a secure “1991” Act tenancy, which is a long-term heritable tenancy with security of tenure and a succession right;
ii. a grazing or mowing lease of not more than 364 days;
iii. a Short Limited Duration Tenancy (SLDT) of up to five years duration;
iv. a Limited Duration Tenancy (LDT) for a minimum period of 15 years (20).


- Crofting is a form of land tenure and small-scale food production unique to the Scottish Highlands and the Islands of Scotland. It evolved from the turbulent period of the Highland Clearances, largely as a means of sustaining populations. Within crofting townships, individual crofts are established on the better land and a large area of poor-quality hill ground is shared by all the crofters of the township for grazing.

A croft is a relatively small agricultural landholding which is normally held in tenancy and which may or may not have buildings or a house associated with it. The average croft size is 5 ha. A crofter is the tenant of a croft. Usually, the crofter holds the croft on the statutory conditions, which apply to every croft tenancy, and does not have a written lease. Some croft land is now owned because former tenants have bought that land.

There are 17 923 crofts occupied by an estimated 10 000–12 000 crofting households with a total population of around 33 000. Of the total, 14 200 are tenanted and the remainder are owned (30).

A draft Crofting Reform Bill to reform crofting is undergoing consultation, which will end in August 2009 (27).


Northern Ireland
Land tenure in Northern Ireland can take the form of:
i. fee-farm grant, which is a type of fee simple tenure where land is held in perpetuity in exchange for a yearly rent. This type of tenure offers no reversion to the former landlord and grants secure title to the former tenant;
ii. various types of leaseholds including leases for lives for a certain number of years or perpetuity, rights of residence, i.e. life estate, and conacre. Conacre is a form of occupancy where licence for use of land is given for a specific use, typically farming; this is similar to farming arrangements of the crofters of the Scottish Highlands.

These various arrangements have caused the land tenure system in Northern Ireland to be very complex. In rural farmland, the Land Purchase Acts tended to create single fee owners of land; however, tiers may occur of fee-farm, fee-tail, subfee-farm, and long leases. In the cities, complex pyramids of title are common. For these reasons, title, through the Land Registry, is guaranteed for only 50 percent of properties in the country (15).

Institutions nationales et locales faisant appliquer la réglementation en matière foncière

England and Wales
- Agricultural Land Tribunals (ALTs) settle disputes and other issues between agricultural tenants and landlords arising from tenancy agreements held under the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1986.

ALTs were established under Section 73 of the Agriculture Act of 1947 to hear appeals of decisions given by the Minister or County Agricultural Executive Committees. The Agriculture Act of 1958 made them courts of first instance and the ALTs now play an important role under the 1986 agricultural holdings legislation in settling disputes and other issues arising between agricultural landlords and tenants. The ALTs also have jurisdiction to settle drainage disputes between neighbours.

There are eight ALTs: seven for England and one for Wales. Each of the seven ALTs for England covers a specific geographic area.

The main issues dealt with by ALTs are:
i. applications by close relatives of a deceased or retiring tenant to succeed to the tenancy;
ii. applications by landlords for consent to a notice to quit served on the tenant;
iii. applications for a direction to tend ditches or carry out drainage work on neighbouring land;
iv. applications by landlords for a certificate of bad husbandry on the ground that the tenant is not farming in accordance with the rules of good husbandry;
v. applications by tenants for approval to carry out long-term improvements on the holding;
vi. applications for a direction to provide fixed equipment.

ALT’s decisions may be questioned by an appeal to the High Court, but only on a point of law.

New tenancies entered into on or after 1 September 1995 are farm business tenancies, subject to the provisions of the Agricultural Tenancies Act of 1995. There is no recourse to the ALTs under the 1995 Act. Instead, general disputes are resolved by recourse to arbitration and are subject to the provisions of the Arbitration Act of 1950 (29).


- The Scottish Land Court takes care of resolving disputes between landlords and tenants that cannot be resolved amicably –  replacing statutory arbitration – as provided for by the Agricultural Holdings Act of 2003 (20).

- The Rural Arbitration & Valuation Nomination Committee (RAVNC) was set up in 2003 following The Scottish Executive’s decision to dissolve the panel of Arbiters.
RAVNC is a joint initiative between the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland (RICS), the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters & Valuers Association (SAAVA) and the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS). It offers a focal point for those needing arbitration services in Scotland.

RAVNC has a panel of approximately 50 people qualified to mediate and arbitrate on rural matters under the Agricultural Holdings Act of 2003 [Scotland] and the Land Reform Act of 2003 [Scotland] (31).


Northern Ireland
- The Lands Tribunal was set up by the Lands Tribunal and Compensation Act of 1964 [Northern Ireland]. It is technically not a tribunal but rather is a proper court; it is not always presided over by a judge and is not serviced by the Northern Ireland Court Service. People serving on it are barristers or solicitors of seven years’ standing or persons experienced in the valuation of land.

One of the most important functions of the Lands Tribunal is to resolve disputes over the amount of compensation to be paid for the compulsory acquisition of land or for the injury caused to land by, for instance, the making of roads. Another important function is hearing appeals and references concerning the valuation of land for rate relief purposes.

The Tribunal must also deal with renewing business tenancies, consenting for alterations to land, assignments and agreements to surrender and modifying legal obligations which are allegedly impeding the enjoyment of land, such as rights of way.
Parties can agree to ask the Lands Tribunal to sit in private as an arbitrating body to settle disputes concerning the value, use or development of a piece of land (32).


- The Rural Development Division (RDD) in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) of the Northern Ireland Government implements European Union (EU) and Government rural development policies and programmes with the aim of achieving a sustainable rural community. Through management of EU and Government rural funding programmes, the Division contributes to the Department’s strategic goals of strengthening the social and economic infrastructure of rural areas and improving the performance of farm businesses in the marketplace (25).

Institutions foncières et quotas pour les femmes

- 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).

Financement et dispositions visant à garantir les transactions foncières des femmes

- Loans for setting or running a business or grants for improvements are based on gender-neutral criteria. Although a number of funding schemes are available for farmers, none is specifically targeted at women farmers (17).

- Environmental Stewardship is an agri-environment scheme that provides funding to farmers and land managers who deliver effective environmental management on their land (24).

- The fund value of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) of 2008 was £1.63 billion with an estimated number of claimants of 106 500. At 31 December 2008, full SPS payments amounting to over £960 million had been made to nearly 70 000 farmers (6).

- The Uplands Entry Level Stewardship (Uplands ELS) is a new payment scheme available for hill farmers starting in 2008. It is designed to ensure that farmers are supported and rewarded in their efforts to maintain England’s historic upland landscape, such as Cumbrian Fells, Dartmoor and the Peak District (6).

Autres facteurs ayant une influence sur les droits fonciers différenciés selon le genre

- In many rural areas, the absence of accessible and affordable childcare and eldercare creates significant barriers to women wishing to enter and/or return to the workplace.
Female rates of unemployment in less accessible rural areas in Northern Ireland are higher than in urban areas or in the more accessible rural areas (28).


- Lack of economic opportunities, networks and access to training infrastructure are problems for women and young people living in remote rural areas (28).


- The Northern Ireland Agricultural services follow a policy of notifying husbands/fathers of current issues, reinforcing the perception of “farming as a male industry” (28).


- In Northern Ireland:
i. most rural women have no legal or professional status unless they are farm owners;
ii. farm women’s social welfare cover is inadequate compared with women in paid employment;
iii. farm women do not have sufficient access to vocational training, nor are they provided with adequate training or incentives to participate in training (28).

- Because women are not generally the direct recipients of social welfare payments, these payments reinforce dependent roles for women (28).


- Rural women who suffer from violence are more isolated than urban dwellers and have less access to support services. Domestic violence is the leading cause of mortality for British women aged 19-44, ahead of cancer and road accidents.
Lack of public transport and decreased access to many resources make it more difficult for rural women to escape abusive relationships or access support services. Rural health care providers may be acquainted with or related to their patients and their families, creating a barrier to disclosing abuse. Geographic isolation and cultural values, including strong ties to the land and kin, all increase the challenges faced by rural women (35).

Sources:  Les nombres affichés entre parenthèse (*) font référence aux sources énumérées dans la Bibliographie.