While Wales and Scotland are quite different countries they do share a slightly similar problem with absentee landlords. A new report has been produced by the Scottish Affairs Committee (in Westminster) has said the Crown Estates management of the marine environment around Scotland lacked transparency and public consultation. At the moment the Crown Estate's controls approximately 50% of Scotland's coast and almost all the seabed, as it does around Wales.
The Crown Estate owns the rights to the sites of fish farms, renewable energy developments, ports and marinas. The Crown Estate is owned by the Queen and managed by an independent board known as the Crown Estate Commissioners. The estate's revenues do not belong to the monarch and surplus revenue from its £7bn-worth of business is paid each year to the Treasury for the benefit of all UK taxpayers.
The Scottish Affairs Committee has said that the UK government should commit to having the Crown Estate's marine responsibilities and rights related to Scotland devolved to the Scottish government, on condition the powers were further devolved to local level. MPs in Westminster took evidence from local communities in Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, Argyll and the Western Isles. The MP’s noted that they received responses that were highly critical of the Crown Estate which included criticism of the organisation which behaved like an "absentee landlord" and "tax collector".
The MP’s considered the nature and extent of the problems in relation to the marine and coastal assets in Scotland, and concluded that the Crown Estate Commissioner should no longer be responsible in these areas. The MP’s concluded that when it comes to the conservation of these maritime assets and the benefits to the island and coastal communities most closely involved with them should be maximised. Something that can only be done is by devolving as much of the responsibility - and benefit - down to the level of those local communities as much as possible.
In March 2011, a Plaid Freedom of Information request 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.
The FOI request revealed that 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 Con Dem Government and the Royal Family had signed a lucrative deal that will earn tens of millions of pounds from the massive expansion of offshore wind farms. The Crown 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. A nice little earner if you can get it, especially for an absentee landlord!