Treasury Committee blasts Crown Estate

Michael Hunt

The Crown Estate, one of the Queen's property funds, lacks in transparency and badly manages its urban and marine estates, according to a new report from the House of Commons Treasury Committee.

The Crown Estate leases areas of sea-bed to energy companies off Barrow and Rhyl for wind farms and has further plans for new generators off the North West and North Wales coasts.

MPs said the Crown Estate has adopted an overly commercial approach to managing its £5bn portfolio and, therefore, has neglected its public service remit.

The Committee said in the report that:

  • The Crown Estate has a domination over the marine environment, and has focused too strongly on collecting revenues rather than acting in the long-term public interest around ports and harbours
  • Some non-commercial historic properties should be reviewed with a view to transferring management to conservation bodies such as English Heritage
  • The quality of residential property management in the urban estate falls short. Consultation processes have lacked transparency, and the Committee was "particularly concerned" that the Crown Estate had failed to consult local bodies which had rights to nominate key workers
  • Ministers should take a greater interest in the Crown Estate, because its overall management struggles to balance revenue generating with acting in the wider public interest

Within the report, it also stated that Sarah McCarthy-Fry, the Exchequor Secretary to the Treasury, will launch a review of the Crown Estate's position in the marine environment.

The Crown Estate has generated over £1.8bn for the Consolidated Fund, a general fund that the Government uses for public expenditure, in the last ten years.

The report questions whether benchmarking itself against private sector property management was the best way to run the portfolio.

In order to achieve goals such as affordable housing or renewable energy, the report recommended that Crown Estate works more closely with public sector partners in London and marine development.

The report was part of the first inquiry into the Crown Estate in 20 years.

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