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Home Money Crown Estate land deal with Taylor Wimpey is a disgrace, says MP

Crown Estate land deal with Taylor Wimpey is a disgrace, says MP

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The taxpayer stands to miss out on hundreds of millions of pounds after the Crown Estate sold a historic 15th century plot of land for just £12.5million.

Taylor Wimpey has made moves to build a new town on 1,000 acres of the Orchard Portman Estate in Somerset which could boost the value of the land to more than £500million.

But if the housebuilder gets planning permission, the Crown Estate, which owns property and land all over Britain on behalf of the Queen and returns its profits to the Treasury, will not receive a penny.

Taylor Wimpey has made moves to build a new town on 1,000 acres of the Orchard Portman Estate in Somerset which could boost the value of the land to more than £500m (file picture)

Taylor Wimpey has made moves to build a new town on 1,000 acres of the Orchard Portman Estate in Somerset which could boost the value of the land to more than £500m (file picture)

MPs and campaigners said the deal was an ‘absolute disgrace’ and called for the Government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), to intervene.

The land in question was part of a 3,400-acre estate on the edge of the Blackdown Hills near Taunton – owned by the Portman family since Walter Portman married Christina Orchard in 1440 – which was sold through property agent Savills in 2018. 

Taylor Wimpey bought the lion’s share of the land, 1,100 acres, including the jewel in the crown – Orchard Portman farm – for £12.5million.

The Crown Estate failed to add a clause allowing it to recoup any uplift in the value of the land, meaning the Treasury will not benefit if the development goes ahead.

Richard Holden MP, a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said: ‘The fact that it appears that the custodians of the Crown Estate screwed up on such an epic scale with public money on very basic elements is absolutely unbelievable. 

‘An immediate investigation is required. I’m certain that both the NAO and PAC will want to look at this as a matter of urgency.’

Ian Liddell-Grainger, a Conservative member of the cusiness committee, said: ‘I think it’s an absolute disgrace what is happening in Taunton. It is particularly appalling because it is 16,000 houses – the value for money just isn’t there.’

The industry’s regulator, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), is investigating the role of Savills in the deal over an alleged conflict of interest. 

Within weeks of the sale, the estate agent was advising Taylor Wimpey how to get planning permission for 16,000 homes, documents obtained the Freedom of Information Act reveals, which could generate more than £3billion in revenue.

A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey said ‘we currently do not have firm plans for the land’ but will ‘make representations as part of the local plan process in due course’.

A Savills spokesman said they are ‘confident there was no conflict of interest given its role and the nature of the advice provided and it acted in accordance with RICS requirements’.

A Crown Estate spokesman said: ‘We’re looking into this matter.’

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