The Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC) are a public
body responsible for the management of the Crown properties and
property rights known as the Crown Estate. They have a general
duty, under the Crown Estate Act 1961, "while maintaining
the Crown estate as an estate in land [ ... ] to maintain and
enhance its value and the return obtained from it, but with due
regard to the requirements of good management". The surplus
revenue generated by the Crown Estate goes into the Consolidated
Fund, a general fund that the government uses for public expenditure.
Included within the Crown Estate are Regent Street and St James's,
rural estates, Windsor Great Park, management of 55% of the foreshore
of the UK and almost all of the seabed out to the 12 nautical
mile territorial limits, and vested rights over the UK continental
The nature of the CEC, and the Crown Estate they
manage, is not widely understood or easy to comprehend. We widened
the scope of our inquiry, therefore, to include an examination
of the nature of the CEC. The CEC run a successful business operation.
Within their Urban and Marine Estates, however, we encountered
circumstances where the extent of their emphasis on revenue generation
appeared to prevent the CEC taking full account of potential wider
The CEC are proposing to sell off four London residential
estates as part of their strategy to concentrate on more commercial
holdings in central London and elsewhere. We are concerned about
the CEC's handling of the consultation exercise, including the
apparent failure to consult local organisations with rights to
nominate key workers, and recommend that they review their consultation
processes. More generally, we also urge the CEC to engage more
fully with key public bodies in London about their future plans
for their London portfolio.
In the marine environment, stakeholders are concerned
by the emphasis the CEC are placing on revenue rather than long-term
development and by CEC's monopoly position. We welcome the CEC's
recognition of the importance of greater consultation and partnership-working
to develop the new tidal and wave power industries, and recommend
that they adopt this approach with the other sectors of marine
development with which they are involved. We also welcome the
Government's intention to review the CEC's monopoly position in
the marine environment. We consider that the CEC ought to be
able to adopt an approach that is more sympathetic to facilitating
the development of local socio-economic benefit.
We note frustration in Scotlandwhere much
of the marine development is taking placeat a lack of engagement
by the CEC. We recommend that the Scottish Government and CEC
agree a concordat or memorandum of understanding to consolidate
their working relationship, and that the CEC greatly strengthen
their management arrangements within Scotland.
We also note, with alarm, CEC's recent involvement
in joint ventures, and recommend that the Treasury review whether
such involvement is compatible with the constraints on borrowing
contained in the Crown Estate Act 1961.
Our most important finding is that, even within the
current statutory framework, the CEC have more flexibility to
accommodate wider public interests than either they or the Government
appear to realise. We consider that, subject to the review recommended
below, these wider public benefits should be clarified. We also
consider that the Government is taking too narrow a view of the
scope it has to advise the CEC on the extent to which it ought
to take wider public interests into account.
We have not formed a definitive view on whether the
current framework for the management of the Crown Estate remains
appropriate, and recommend that the future Government commission
a wider review of the management of the Crown Estate and the 1961
Act, and the appropriate level of Ministerial involvement.