Just half a mile out of town is Altrincham Retail Park – yet another boring concrete metropolis with shops no different from anywhere else in the country. But there’s a twist: it’s the Queen’s.
The shopping centre is the property of the Crown Estate – a wide-ranging portfolio of land, sea and offshore wind turbines that belongs to the Queen, but whose profits go mostly to the public.
And the group yesterday announced their profits for the year, celebrating record returns of £285 million – 85% of which will be handed over to the Treasury for the benefit of the public, with the remainder going to our monarch.
With almost five million visitors a year (that’s over 38,000 cars every week), and spending power of over £1.2 billion per annum, Altrincham Retail Park means big money for the Crown Estate.
Yet Altrincham is just one shopping centre out of 17 they own across the country, with others on the portfolio including the Coliseum, belonging to our Scouse neighbours in Ellesmere Port.
OLD MONEY: Other assets on the Queen’s books in the North West include the Coliseum shopping centre in Ellesmere Port (© Crown Estate, with thanks)
But how much do you know about what the Crown Estate do and what they own?
Did you know, for example, that the entire UK seabed belongs to them, along with around half of the ‘foreshore’ – the land between the high and low tide marks? Or that all of London’s iconic Regent Street is theirs?
The Crown Estate dates back to the time of the 1066 Norman Conquest and was properly set in stone in 1760 when an agreement was reached between the government and George III for Parliament to manage the ‘Crown Lands’ on behalf of the King.
But while it still bears the monarch’s name, the Crown Estate isn’t the personal property of the Queen and aside from not being able to flog it, she only gets a 15% cut of the cash.
Instead, it’s headed up by an independent organisation that runs all the properties on their books, and pays any profit they make back into the Treasury every year for the benefit of all UK taxpayers.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY: The Queen racks up a tidy 15% profit from the Estate’s assets, with the rest going to UK taxpayers (© THOR, with thanks)
With a value of £11.5 billion, it’s one of the biggest players in the UK property scene, and with growth of 50% over the last ten years, yesterday’s news that profits were up is a good sign in troubling economic times.
And it’s not just the financial benefits – the group also announced that they were the first national landlord to make a Living Wage commitment, in addition to securing 1000 new jobs.
But up in the North West, assets tend to be far and wide.
Aside from Altrincham’s retail park, the Crown Estate no longer own any more properties in Manchester after selling off a city centre office building to Tesco just weeks ago for an undisclosed sum.
St James’ House on John Dalton Street was bought by the group 20 years ago, but a shifting focus away from investing in office and corporate assets in favour of retail and leisure saw the property snapped up by the supermarket giant’s pension branch.
And on a national level they’ve come under the spotlight this week too, with The Mirror reporting that 200 of the Estate’s residential properties are being sold off, with their tenants to be evicted unless they stump up the cash to buy their houses at allegedly inflated prices.
How much did you know about the Crown Estate?
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Top image courtesy of Crown Estate with inset from Sky, with thanks