Land can seem an unbeatable investment. As our pioneering Chief Land Registrar Charles Fortescue Brickdale put it: “Everything…including ourselves, is perishable and fleeting. Land is not.”

And what if the seller claims the land’s value will rocket because it’s due to be developed? It can be hard to resist. But all may not be what it seems. Beware the dangers of “land banking”.

Land bankers buy a large area of undeveloped land and divide it up into smaller plots to sell to investors. They claim the plots have good investment value in the expectation of future development

Image of £20 notes on the ground representing land banking

However the land often has no prospect of ever being developed. The very act of subdividing it may have made it less attractive to any prospective developer.

Some land bankers are economical with the truth and some make possibly fraudulent claims. Schemes have been closed down and their owners prosecuted.

We have no choice but to register the plots when they are bought so we try to warn potential investors in advance. We make clear we have no role in the granting of planning permission and we liaise with and share information with the police, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Insolvency Service.

We try to do as much as we can. But ultimately it’s up to everyone to remember: “Buyer beware.”

For more information on land banking, you can contact the following organisations

Gavin Curry
By Gavin Curry,
Digital Communications and Editorial Officer at HM Land Registry