Taking our lead from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, sustainability has always been at the heart of how we operate. Our 2016/17 Integrated Annual Report, published today and available here represents the culmination of a three-year project to move to integrated reporting. This allows us to set out clearly what sustainable stewardship means to us.
Building on work in our previous two annual reports, this year we consider how we create value and limit negative impacts for each of our key resources and relationships. We discuss the material, external factors that impact the Duchy estate and how we are responding. We set out key performance indicators for each of our strategic objectives, and we look at each of our stakeholder groups, their priorities, and how we create value for them.
Current macroeconomic and political trends will impact how we create value over the longer term. Four of these are reviewed in the Report: the UK’s decision to leave the European Union; the shortage of and affordability of homes; climate change; and biodiversity loss and biosecurity. All these create uncertainty for the landlord and those who earn their living from, or live on, the estate.
A major milestone was reached this year at Poundbury when HM The Queen officially opened Queen Mother Square, the central hub of the Duchy’s development in Dorset. Since it was started in 1993, Poundbury has demonstrated that there is a genuine alternative to the way in which we build new communities in the UK. It is now home to around 3,000 people and 184 businesses with over 2,300 employees, and has had a major economic impact on the county. Simon Conibear, the Estate Director at Poundbury, has retired after 22 years working on the development. His successor, Ben Murphy, was appointed over two years ago in order to ensure a smooth handover.
Another significant development project, the Truro Eastern District Centre, was completed during the year. Let to Waitrose and Cornwall Council, the property has been retained by the Duchy within its commercial portfolio.
We commissioned our first residential tenant survey this year. We are pleased to have had such a high response rate, and to have been scored highly for overall tenant satisfaction levels and for how our staff deal with tenants. However, it is apparent that we need to respond more quickly to repair issues and to keep tenants better informed about progress on repair issues. Unsurprisingly, given the age of many of our properties and the cost of fuel, the survey revealed that many tenants find heating their homes both difficult and expensive. There is more detail available about the results of the tenant survey within the Report.
During the year we were pleased to re-let a significant farm in Cornwall to an existing Duchy farm tenant from a neighbouring estate, who successfully secured the tenancy against a strong competitive field. The farm he leaves has been reorganised to provide a new opportunity for a former Devon County Council farm tenant, to expand his dairy herd and develop a family farming business.
We have concluded work to develop key performance indicators to assist the reporting and monitoring of our strategic objectives. Some of these indicators relate to our five-year strategy and are work in progress. On some we have fallen short, but plan to make up lost ground, and on others we are meeting our targets. See page 16 of the Report for further details.
Given the economic difficulties that the agricultural sector continues to face and the historically low interest rate environment, growing the revenue surplus above inflation has proved to be challenging, as this year’s results show. Indeed, delivering any growth in the revenue surplus over the next few years will be difficult to achieve.
The extensive programme of property renovations and improvements will continue. There is a considerable lead time to bring projects to fruition, through planning, design and obtaining the appropriate quality of contractors.
Further diversification within the portfolio will be sought where possible to underpin revenue growth, including restructurings within the commercial portfolio and two farm sales.
Pages 34–39 of the Report highlight the governance of the Duchy and the huge experience of The Prince’s Council. This helps ensure the right balance between short- medium- and long-term interests, and means we draw on our rich history when determining future strategic direction.
I thank all the staff who have contributed so much to our success this year, in so many areas. I am confident that our traditions and ethos, set out in this Report, together with hard work and determination, allow us to maintain our strong position.
Alastair Martin, Secretary and Keeper of the Records
Thirteen cadets from 730 (City of Truro) Squadron planted 50 trees in local Duchy woodland.Read more