A flood defence project on Crown Estate land in the north was paid for entirely by public funds, according to details revealed in a new freedom of information (FOI) request. 

The recently-completed East Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme started construction in 2020 to protect 1,650 properties from flooding and was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

The land on which the new flood defences were built is Crown Estate property, and Denbighshire County Council were granted landowner rights in order to start building.

According to information obtained by The National from the FOI, the latest estimate for the project’s cost was £20.274m, with additional fees such as design of £2.057m.

The National Wales: The East Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme. Photo: Denbighshire County CouncilThe East Rhyl Coastal Defence Scheme. Photo: Denbighshire County Council

Of that £20.274m, Denbighshire County Council paid for 15% of it (approximately £3m), with the remainder of the project being paid for by the Welsh Government. The Crown Estate - who owns the land the flood defences were built on - made no financial contribution.

The Crown Estate is a property and land business whose profits are used to pay for the upkeep of the British monarch. Last month, it announced that its financial results for 2021/22 had seen an increase of £43.4m in profits compared to the year before - taking the total to £312.7m for the year.

Since ownership of the land belongs to the establishment of the monarchy and not the person who is the monarch, the Crown Estate exists independently of the government and the monarch. This is in order to maintain the income generated from the land ownership that was historically held by kings and queens of England.

In Wales, the Crown Estate owns 65% of shoreline and riverbeds, more than 50,000 acres of land, and the first twelve nautical miles of seabed from the shore.

Between 2020 and 2021, the Crown Estate saw the value of its holdings in Wales increase from £96.8m to £603m.

The reason for this increase in valuation is due to the viability of offshore energy generation schemes which had previously only been speculated.

READ MORE:

The Crown Estate stands to profit from the essential infrastructure upgrade as a slipway extension has been built which goes beyond the land which Denbighshire County Council were granted landowner rights for and they will be charged for this. The amount has not yet been confirmed, but is expected to reflect market rates.

Jon Harland, a Green Party councillor on Denbighshire County Council representing the nearby ward of Prestatyn Central said, “The insistence that the Crown Estate receives some financial recompense for construction works on their land is probably no more than any landowner would do, but this is land needed for a special use: the protection of thousands of residents from the possibility of flooding.

“A use that should be paramount, and instead Crown Estates are the exploiter, rather than the supporter, of this project.”

The Green Party supports independence for Wales, and also supports the devolution of the Crown Estate to Wales - a matter that's already devolved in Scotland, and which raised £700m last year in revenues to help contribute to the Scottish Government's coffers.

Plaid Cymru intends to re-introduce a bill to the House of Commons to devolve the Crown Estate in Wales - their leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts, urged Labour MPs to back the bill, saying: “With Westminster focused on glossy energy strategies rather than effective delivery, bringing control over our resources closer to the communities that are affected is not only what Wales wants, but is the right thing to do to secure a just and green net-zero transition.”

READ MORE: Wales will miss out on 'green gold rush' from off shore wind farm plans, say Plaid

From the shore at the new East Rhyl flood defences the offshore wind farms built on Crown Estate land at North Hoyle, Rhyl Flats and Gwynt y Môr are visible - projects run by private enterprises who pay the Crown Estates for the lease of their land.

This week the Crown Estate announced the possibility of new floating windfarms off the Welsh coast to help develop the new technology.

Previously the Crown Estate leased land for experimental tidal energy in Ramsey Sound off the coast of Pembrokeshire. Tidal Energy Ltd, who were hoping to develop new DeltaStream turbines went into administration in October 2016. A buyer for the failed business is still being sought.