North Wales market town at centre of royal claim over 'manorial rights' to its minerals

Residents of Pwllheli receive letters saying Crown Estate wants to register ownership of the minerals beneath their homes

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The Independent Online

It is over 600 years since Pwllheli in North Wales was given its charter by Edward, the Black Prince.

But now the ancient market town is at the centre of a Royal claim over the “manorial rights” to the ground on which its foundations are built. Around 1,300 homeowners in Pwllheli and nearby Morfa Nefyn have been sent letters saying the Crown Estate wants to register ownership of mines and minerals beneath their houses.

The estate, which manages sovereign land, says it has owned rights over the minerals for many centuries and is now having to register its ownership after protection over these rights was withdrawn under new land registration laws.

But the letters sent out by the Land Registry notifying residents of the claim have sparked “worry and alarm” according to the town’s MP, who says the Crown Estate’s bid mirrors the “grasping, unprincipled landlordism” that has bedevilled Wales in the past.

The row comes two years after residents in Anglesey and the Arfon area of Gwynedd pledged to challenge similar notices sent out on behalf of the Crown Estate claiming ownership over ancient rights to minerals and mining.

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, which includes Pwllheli, said: “This has alarmed my constituents and has been the cause of great worry for local people

“Staking claim to mining and mineral rights reeks of the 19th century, not the 21st century. There is no place for this kind of approach today.”

Mike Parry, a town councillor in Pwllheli, said: “These letters are worrying for people, especially the elderly, who are concerned about what will happen to their homes.”

The Crown Estate is an independent commercial business, with a history dating back to 1066. It has been tasked by Parliament since 1760 with managing the sovereign’s land. 

Over the last 10 years it has returned a £2.3bn profit to the Treasury. Its portfolio includes Regent Street and much of St James’s in London – and the entire UK seabed.

Homeowners in Pwllheli have been told they can challenge the claim, but must provide evidence that they are entitled to whatever minerals might lie beneath their homes.

The minerals, if they exist at all, might include deposits of sand, rock or even quartz. But they would not include coal, oil, gas, silver or gold, which are covered by other legislation.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Estate said: “Along with many other landowners, the Crown Estate is in the process of registering historical mineral rights with the Land Registry.

“These claims are not new and we would like to reassure local residents that the registration process is in no way an indication of our intent to begin mining, which in any event would require planning permission and the surface owner’s consent.”