Value of marine holdings held by Queen’s Crown Estate jumps 22% in a year amid devolution calls
The value of the marine holdings held by the Crown Estate, including much of Wales’ seabed, has jumped 22% in a year amid calls for control over its profits and development to be returned to Wales.
The Crown Estate reported annual results on Thursday, generating £313m in net revenue profit for the public purse in the year to the end of March. That was a £43m improvement on the prior twelve months.
The value of the estate’s portfolio also jumped in the period, rising more than 8% to £15.6bn, driven by an increase in the value of the company’s marine holdings, which include most of Wales’ seabed, which jumped 22 per cent to £5bn.
As it stands 75% of the profit made by the Crown Estate will go into the UK Treasury and 25% into the Queen’s own coffers.
Wales’ Climate Change minister Julie James has previously said that it is “outrageous” that the Crown Estate was devolved to Scotland and not Wales.
Independence campaign group YesCymru also held a number of ‘banners on beaches’ events over the weekend calling for control over the seabed around Wales to be transferred to the Welsh Government.
“The demand for marine space is greater than ever due to the need to strengthen domestic energy supplies and hasten the UK’s low carbon energy transition,” said the Crown Estate estate, which leases seabed rights to companies to develop offshore wind projects.
Last week however the UK Government minister has said that he doesn’t understand why there are calls to devolve the Crown Estate to Wales, calling on MPs to “point me to what the problem is”.
Greg Hands, the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, was challenged by Labour MP for the Cynon Valley Beth Winter on whether there were any plans to devolve the Crown Estate to Wales.
“I’m not aware of the – if someone could point to me what the problem is here,” he said.
“I see the Crown Estate delivering right away across the country. I’m not aware of that being an issue in the Crown Estate, and what could be changed or improved by the state of the Crown Estate in Wales being altered.
“I haven’t seen that.”
Beth Winter, who was taking part in a Welsh Affairs Committee Meeting on energy in Wales, said that while there was a good relationship between the Crown Estate and the Welsh Government, the call was that it should be devolved so the funds could be invested in renewables.
“So there’s a distinction that she [Julie James] says yes, the relationship is positive,” she said. “But in terms of the distribution and how the funds are spent, there should be decided by the devolved government.”
But Greg Hands said that from reading Julie James’ evidence “she didn’t see that there was a problem in relation to the Crown Estate”.
“And I think the Crown Estate to be frank I think does a really good job overall, as indeed does the Crown Estate Scotland, and the Crown Estate for the rest of the country.
“And particularly the way they’re approaching the Celtic sea at the moment I think is being very fruitful to them forward in terms in terms of the work that they’re doing with the sector, making sure the Celtic Sea is ready.
“So I don’t I don’t see that being an issue. I think if I may, Julie James I think herself said that she had a good working relationship so she didn’t have a specific problem.”
Speaking in the Senedd in January, Julie James had said that she “completely” agreef that the Crown Estate should be devolved to Wales.
“It’s completely outrageous that it’s devolved to Scotland and not to us, and that, indeed, the returns from the Crown Estate go straight back to HM Treasury,” she said.
“They don’t even go through the Barnett formula arrangement. So, I have absolutely written to say that we want the Crown Estates devolved, and we want them devolved on the same basis as they are devolved in Scotland.
“However, in the meantime, and in the absence of a government at UK level who seems likely to do that in the foreseeable future, in the meantime, we have also sought to develop a very good relationship with the Crown Estates.
“So, both myself and Lee Waters have met with the Crown Estates to discuss the various potential in the Celtic sea and around the Welsh coast, where Crown Estate land is involved, and, also, actually, on land as well. So, Crown Estates own some land in Wales too.
“We’ve also engaged with them to make sure that we have as much of community ownership, community benefit strand in the auctions that they are conducting, although the money goes, as you say, back to the Treasury. So far, we’ve had an engaged and reasonable reception from them, although that’s no substitute, I absolutely agree, for having the thing devolved to us.”
‘See the benefit’
Over the weekend Independence campaign group YesCymru held a series of rallies on Wales’ beaches to draw attention to the campaign to devolve the Crown Estate.
YesCymru groups organised rallies at locations from Talacre, to Dinas Dinlle, Aberystwyth, Burry Port, Porthcawl, Llansteffan and Penarth.
As part of the Merthyr Rising festival of music and ideas, a small beach was also created to highlight the issue.
Vaughan Williams, a member of Yes Cymru’s National Governing Body said: “In 2020-21, the value of the Crown Estate’s renewable assets in Wales grew from £49.2m to £549.1m and hundreds of millions of pounds is lost to us.
“Would we not be better served if that money came directly to Wales and was invested in our communities?
“It is time that we made our voices heard in Westminster, that extracting wealth from Wales directly into the UK Treasury is not sustainable. The people of Wales are fed up with seeing our natural resources being exploited by others.
“Welsh offshore energy production is increasing on an annual basis, yet do we see the benefit? Just imagine what we could do with the profits and how we could invest it in seaside communities which are amongst the poorest in Wales.
“We need to harness the energy to profit ourselves.”
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