Property ownership: Brent has largest concentration of Oxbridge-owned commercial property

As this week’s Guardian revealed, Brent has the largest concentration of commercially-owned Oxbridge property of any borough in the UK. This touches on a wider issue affecting local residents, and we’ll be doing some research to look into the scale of the problem. 

This week, the Guardian has run a number of good investigative stories about the scale of Oxford and Cambridge University-owned commercial property in the country. The two Universities collectively own over £3.5 billion worth of property across the UK.

I was particularly struck by the following passage of their article on 29th May:

‘The most concentrated commercial land ownership is in Brent, where All Souls College, one of Oxford’s wealthiest, owns more than 300 properties. The vast majority are residential houses, but they also include the freehold of a Ladbrokes betting shop.’ – The Guardian, 29th May 2018

This surprising revelation touches on a much broader issue: a surprising amount of Britain’s land and property is still owned by some very wealthy and privileged individuals and institutions.

Far from being a trivial issue, this structure of ownership can have a very real and practical impact on the residents living on the land or property owned by them. They can often provide the root cause of high private rents or unacceptable managing agent charges to leaseholders; or the root reason preventing local public services from being established.

To help shed light on this wider problem, I will be making some Freedom of Information requests to All Souls College to try and uncover what uses they have put to these properties:

All but one of the 300 properties All Souls College owns in Brent are freehold. Although a full list of these properties is available from the Land Registry, this list doesn’t give us any information about what they do with these freeholds – ie the fees they or the managing agents charge; the length and cost of leases; whether they are residential or otherwise; etc.

I’ll post any updates of what I find on this website.

Councillor Thomas Stephens

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