Current Events

King’s seabed rights swell to the value of £5 Billion after the auction of plots

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NEWS STORY BY MICHAEL WALSH DONATION: The value of rights owned by the Queen’s property company to exploit the seabed around Britain’s coastline has swelled to £5bn after a record-breaking auction of plots for offshore windfarms.

Profits for the crown estate, which generates money for the Treasury and the royal family, jumped by £43.4m to £312.7m in the year to the end of March. The total value of its portfolio, which includes swathes of the seabed around Britain and property on Regent Street, London, has increased by 8.3% to £15.6bn. The estate’s first auction of its seabed licences in a decade helped to drive up the value of the portfolio.

The estate awarded licences for six offshore windfarms off the coast of England and Wales, which could generate up to £9bn over the next 10 years. The successful bidders included Germany’s RWE Renewables, which won two licences at Dogger Bank, off the Yorkshire coast, and two from a consortium which includes the oil company BP, which is also investing in renewable energy.

The government has yet to approve any of the projects. However, independent valuations of their potential income pushed up the value of the crown estate’s marine business by 22% last year to £5bn. It is hoped the wind farms will be able to power 7m homes.

The crown estate hands all of its profits to the Treasury before 25% is returned to the royal household in the form of the sovereign grant, a funding formula that is currently under government review. The sovereign grant was increased in 2017, from its previous level of 15%, to pay for extensive renovations at Buckingham Palace.

The funding arrangement dates back to 1760 when George III reached an agreement to surrender his income from the crown estate in return for an annual fixed payment, now called the sovereign grant. The King or Queen is not liable for tax on the sovereign grant but voluntarily pays tax on her private income from land owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and property she owns personally.

The £312.7m profit represents a significant bounce back on last year, aided by a step up in rent collection and an increase in offshore wind capacity, notably from the Triton Knoll windfarm, off the Lincolnshire coast, and Hornsea 2, off Yorkshire. But profits still fell short of the £345m raked in before the pandemic, which punctured the value of central London property.

The crown is on a drive to boost its income from the licensing of renewable energy projects such as static wind farms in shallow waters, carbon capture storage, and floating wind farm leasing. It hopes floating windfarms planned for the Celtic Sea could generate up to 4 gigawatts of power. The value of its London portfolio was flat at £7.7bn, underperforming its investment benchmark.

The company also owns 191,000 acres of land including Windsor Park, in Berkshire, where profits nudged up by £1m to £18m as visitor numbers bounced back from the pandemic. Allen said the crown estate planned to invest between £500m and £1bn over the next decade in modernising its property estate and in improving its buildings’ energy efficiency. Source

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