Value of Crown Estate rises by £2bn in a decade

The value of the Crown Estate, vast areas of land and properties owned by the monarch, has doubled in less than 10 years to more than £4bn.

Annual accounts published yesterday show that since 1994 the royal portfolio of property and commercial interests has risen in capital value from £2bn to £4.2bn.

The estate, which includes almost all the buildings in Regent Street and Regent's Park, commended itself for its efficient management of its property. Last year, the estate made record profits of £170m in the face of "difficult economic conditions". This "revenue surplus", including rents paid by minor royals living on the Windsor Great Park, is surrendered to the Exchequer at the end of the financial year.

The report reveals that senior executives of the Crown Estate, who also manage the seabed to the 12-mile territorial limit, have committed themselves to renewable energy resources by granting licences for offshore wind farms. More are expected to be sold in the next few weeks. Roger Bright, the chief executive, said: "We have worked closely with the windfarm industry and the Department of Trade and Industry to help get this important new industry off the ground."

Under an agreement struck between George III and Parliament in 1760, the state pays the Queen an income in return for her giving up her right to the profits of the Crown Estate. Buckingham Palace advisers say this is a good deal for the nation because the Head of State expenditure, including the Civil List, was just £36.2m last year. The constitutional settlement of the Crown Estate is not irreversible, leaving it open to the Prince of Wales to reclaim the lands on his ascent to the throne.

The Crown Estate says it drives a hard but fair bargain in negotiating with its royal tenants. But the Duke of York, who has agreed to move into the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, is known to have still not signed the lease and the property remains empty more than a year after the death of the Queen Mother, the previous occupant.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex already pay the Crown Estate a commercial rent for their 57-room home at Bagshot Park, Surrey. They are thought to pay about £300,000 a year, part of which is funded by the Queen.

Mr Bright said of the annual report: "These are extremely good results showing a positive trading performance for the year despite difficult economic conditions that have affected all areas of our business."

In last year's report, the Crown Estate showed that its portfolio, including properties on Regent Street and several farming estates, had outperformed the market, increasing profits by 10.6 per cent from £147m in 2000-01 to £163m. Ian Grant, the new chairman, said: "Financial success is very important to the Crown Estate, bearing responsibility as we do for creating value for everyone, paying our entire revenue surplus to the Treasury for the benefit of the taxpayers throughout the UK."

But some believe the organisation remains secretive. This year, Mr Bright said the estate had made "minor changes" to its accounting practices to "improve transparency and comprehensibility". Last month, the Queen published her own accounts, which showed that the cost to the taxpayer of maintaining the Royal Family rose by nearly £1m last year.

Alan Reid, the Queen's accountant, justified the 2.5 per cent increase in the Queen's annual expenditure of £900,000 - to £36.2m - on the basis that cheapest was not always best. He said: "It is not necessarily our aim to have the cheapest monarchy possible. Quality is also important."

Profits at Prince Charles's private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, were up by nearly £1m. His income was £9.9m in the latest financial year. During the same period, he received state subsidies amounting to about £3m.