The credit crunch doesn’t pass the Duchy

IT’S a property empire that dates from the 13th century and includes a Yorkshire railway station which starred in the Harry Potter films.

Results published yesterday showed that even the Duchy of Lancaster isn’t immune from the credit crunch, as it suffered a fall in net operating income.

The Duchy is a private portfolio of land, property and assets held by the Queen in her role as Duke of Lancaster. Today, the Duchy is the custodian of 18,087 hectares of land across England and Wales, including the Goathland estate in the North York Moors National Park and Pickering and Pontefract castles.

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Goathland railway station appeared as Hogsmeade Station, the stop for Hogwarts School, in the Harry Potter films.

In the year ended March 31 2012, the Duchy’s net operating income fell by 8.6 per cent to £12.7m.

The net surplus also dropped by 3.1 per cent to £12.9m. However, net asset value increased by 5.8 per cent to £405.3m

Paul Clarke, the chief executive and clerk of the Duchy Council, said that, despite difficult economic conditions, the portfolio had performed well and provided £12.9m to the Privy Purse.

He said: “The net surplus fell but this was in light of a very significant fall in rental income in the year, arising from the decision to refurbish the office space within Wellington House on the Savoy Estate (in London). However, there has been encouraging and consistent income growth from the other asset classes within the Duchy.

“Capital has performed well, with an increase in Net Asset Value of 5.8 per cent to £405.3m which is the first time that the Duchy has passed through the £400m barrier.

“The continued recovery from 2009 has been shared across all parts of the portfolio but again with particularly strong contributions from both the agricultural and commercial portfolios.”

The Duchy is self financing and does not rely on public funds.

Mr Clarke added: “As anticipated, 2012 has not been an easy year for occupiers or the Duchy but notwithstanding this, the results for the year have shown the resilience of the Duchy portfolio in adverse financial markets.”

The Duchy also owns land and property in Harrogate, managed separately from its rural surveys. The Harrogate estate includes business properties and 103 hectares of open space known as the Stray, which is managed by Harrogate Council.

There are also holdings in Birmingham, Manchester, Rotherham, Stoke-on-Trent and a large industrial estate in South Lon-don.