The Crown Estate is set for a multi-million pound windfall from the development of wind farms – and Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood believes the benefits of natural resources should go to the people of Wales.
A Freedom of Information request by Plaid’s Sustainability spokesperson revealed that the existing offshore wind farms in north Wales at North Hoyle and Rhyl Flats generated income to the Crown Estate of almost £400,000 in 2009-10.
And that is set to multiply many times with the development of other sites. Construction of the Gwynt-y-Mor wind project is due to start this year and the Crown Estate told Leanne Wood it also had a zone development agreement with Centrica to develop up to 4.2 gigawatts, covering both Welsh and English waters.
In addition, the Crown Estate has onshore options for three wind farms at Lys Dymper with Wind Power Wales, at Llanllwni with RES Renewables and Cilfaesty with RWE Power. Planning applications have been submitted for the first two.
The annual report of Crown Estate showed its Welsh holdings generated a gross surplus of £2.3m in 2009-10 with capital receipts bringing in £1.8m. It owns more than 3,000 acres across Wales, principally agricultural holdings. Profits earned by the Crown Estate are paid to the Treasury, according to them, for "the benefit of the nation".
Last year it was revealed that the Royal Family had secured a lucrative deal that will earn them tens of millions of pounds from the massive expansion of offshore wind farms. They will net up to £37.5 million extra income every year from the drive for green energy because the seabed within Britain's territorial waters is owned by the Crown Estate.
Leanne Wood AM, Plaid South Wales Central, said:
"The two North Wales wind farms generated £389,000 in income over the last financial year and that is set to grow into millions of pounds over the next few years with the increasing drive for more green energy. Many onshore and offshore projects are on the cards.
"Plaid’s view is that it is high time that profits which are earned from Wales’ natural resources, the seabed and the land should be owned by the Welsh Government for benefit of the people of Wales and not into the Treasury's coffers, which is passed into an already excessively wealthy Royal Family.
"We don’t want to repeat the situation where huge profits were made from the coal industry but Wales did not enjoy the benefits and is still paying the price today.
"Virtually all the UK’s sea bed, including that in Wales, up to 12 nautical miles and more than half the UK foreshore is owned by the Crown Estate.
WHAT THE CROWN ESTATES SAYS ABOUT ITS WELSH LAND HOLDINGS
We are responsible for three agricultural holdings, under different uses: Aberystwyth, which includes 34 hectares (84 acres) of land used by the University of Aberystwyth for research and the fourth largest sheep market in Wales, at 3 hectares (8 acres); Plynlimon, 1,185 hectares (2,928 acres) comprising two agricultural holdings; and Tintern, 68 hectares (169 acres) which includes substantial mineral interests on the west bank of the River Wye. In the interest of preserving Tintern Abbey for future generations, we have placed it in the care of CADW (the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly) under a long-term management agreement. The majority of our estate in Wales is common land, primarily used for grazing sheep but we also have more traditional farms.