How did a company manage to buy public amenity land, including a road and public footpaths for £1,000?

The land surrounding The Boltons was Bona Vacantia. Sounds Italian but actually it’s the Latin for ‘ownerless goods’.

How does land in the UK can become ownerless? 

Its normally when a company gets dissolved or goes into liquidation. All its assets including property goes to The Crown and it becomes Bona Vacantia in other words it belongs to The Crown.

Can you buy Bona Vacantia land? 

The answer is yes and it’s sold off by The Crown. The builder who developed The Boltons owned the amenity land and when the company was dissolved its assets went to The Crown and then Disclaimed (Escheated). An asset will either be Disclaimed or sold for full market value. 

Disclaimed means that the Crown has given up its interest in it, usually because it’s difficult or problematic land, land which has limited value or where it would not be cost effective to dispose of it. Land used by the public, such as private roads, service yards, amenity land, or the common parts of an estate or a block of flats; property subject to onerous covenants or other potential liabilities is normally Disclaimed. Simply put, the Crown considers land which is disclaimed as low value which is why The Boltons amenity land was sold to Cotton Land Management MOS Ltd for £1,000.

A further twist in the acquisition of The Boltons land

The department responsible for Bona Vacantia will not generally sell common, amenity land. If someone does approach them, before they sell they want to know: 

  • why you are interested in purchasing it

  • whether you want to use the land to gain access to any other land that you own or plan to acquire

  • any adjoining land you own 


It is normal for The Crown to make enquiries of adjoining owners or other parties who may have an interest in the land or alternatively ask the purchaser to make those enquiries, and if relevant get the consent of neighbouring land owners.

In the case of The Boltons the solicitors acting for the Crown believed that the land was being sold to residents. It was not. It was sold to a company with two shareholders and one director. There are 10 houses in The Boltons. Two are owned by the shareholders of the company Cotton Land Management MOS Ltd. Many of residents in The Boltons had no idea about the purchase. They were not consulted nor were they asked if they wanted to participate as residents.

We have sought to find out what assurances were given to The Crown, what consents were given and what evidence they have to support the purchase.  The solicitors acting for The Crown and for the purchasers are avoiding our questions. We have tried on three separate occasions to request shares to be issued to all residents and we have not received a response. Meanwhile the amenity land is being annexed into gardens. We wonder if the owners told The Crown before they purchased of their intentions?

All the houses in The Boltons have adjoining land, either to the front, side, or back. The have an interest in what happens to the land. The public have an interest too with the adopted footpaths that run through it providing safe access to the beach. It is unthinkable that all this is under threat because two shareholders sought to benefit themselves. 

If you feel that this is an injustice and you want to see the land remain as public, open green space, then you need to sign up and support The Boltons Amenity Land Preservation Group. It costs nothing, just a few seconds of your time to complete a form to preserve the footpaths and landscaping which was dedicated to the public forever and has been public land for over 50 years. 


You can use the form on this website contact us or email us on email