The Duchy of Lancaster has sold its interest in the freehold of a prestigious 8-storey office building in the heart of Manchester city centre to Mercer Real Estate Partners Fund II (MREPII). The sale is part of the Duchy’s ongoing strategy of active asset management and diversification across its portfolio and follows three commercial acquisitions earlier this year.
Acquired by the Duchy in 2008, 81 Fountain Street was constructed in the late 1980s. Comprised of over 40,000 square foot of prime commercial office space, it was fully let to private healthcare company BUPA until 2013. Currently, three floors of the building are occupied by national law firm Hill Dickinson, while the ground floor is shared by Blue Arrow and DX Network Services.
Commenting on the sale, Duchy Head of Urban Mike Andrews said: “We constantly monitor and review our commercial portfolio in line with market conditions and enhance the overall value of the Duchy estate. There is strong demand for city centre offices offering refurbishment opportunities and we are pleased to have completed the sale within days of accepting the offer for the freehold from Mercer Real Estate Partners.”
Mercer Real Estate Partners is a privately owned real estate investment firm with interests in the office, residential, retail, industrial and hospitality sectors across the UK.
Colliers acted for the Duchy of Lancaster and Lambert Smith Hampton acted for Mercer Real Estate Partners.
The Duchy of Lancaster is supporting the installation of new flood defences on its Pickering Estate in North Yorkshire. Plans put forward in 2013 for a £2m scheme designed to ‘slow the flow’ of floodwaters through Pickering are now nearing completion and include the creation of a new bund and control structure on Duchy land along Pickering Beck.
Commenting on the scheme, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “As a responsible landowner, the Duchy is pleased to release land to support initiatives such as this. The project has been very well supported by other local landowners, the local authority and neighbouring councils, Environment Agency and North York Moors National Park. The end result should protect Pickering from flooding in the event of any flood risk above a one-in-25-year event happening, while maintaining the beauty and integrity of the natural landscape.”
Pickering last suffered serious flooding in June 2007.
The Duchy of Lancaster’s Pickering Estate extends to circa 1,500 hectares to the north of the town itself. It includes woodland, agricultural holdings and residential properties, as well as a commercial shoot, bed and breakfast, tea rooms, rifle range and quarry. It forms part of the Yorkshire Survey, one of the Duchy’s five Rural Surveys across England and Wales.
Barn owl chicks have been found nesting at the Duchy’s Hanbury Grange property in Staffordshire for the second consecutive year. Two new chicks were discovered in the box two weeks ago by the Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group, an organisation affiliated to the Wildlife Trust and who monitor more than 400 nest boxes across the county.
The discovery is particularly encouraging given the levels of breeding among barn owls this year and a consequent drop in brood numbers.
Commenting on the news, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “It is so important that we all play our part to help preserve appropriate habitats for these magnificent birds. As a responsible landowner, the Duchy is more than happy to put up nesting boxes in key areas and to encourage others to do the same. We know that the barn owl has declined dramatically in number here in Britain over the last century or so and a simple thing like a nesting box can make a significant difference.”
Helen Cottam from Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group agrees: “We are grateful to landowners and farmers who are prepared to support us in our efforts to help monitor barn owl numbers through the installation of nest boxes across Staffordshire. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort and it can really help. Barn owls have been decline over the last 70 years due to changes in farming practices, especially the loss of traditional hay meadows. In more recent years, unseasonal weather and prolonged cold winters have had a negative impact on barn owl numbers. We encourage landowners to provide nest boxes where farmland provides good barn owl habitat”.
The Duchy installed five nesting boxes at Hanbury Grange back in 2008. However, this particular box has proved a clear winner, with last year’s young chicks also found sharing the very same nest!
For further information on the Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group, please visit the website: http://staffordshirebarnowlactiongroup.weebly.com.
A 19th century cottage in the heart of Dunsop Bridge is the first to be refurbished to the Duchy’s new quality standard for residential properties. The refurbishment included interior and exterior decoration, and the installation of a new kitchen and ironmongery to accord with the recently introduced Duchy specification.
On completion, Ivy Cottage was let to a new tenant – a young family moving into the area from Bolton by Bowland.
Mum Ericasaid they are delighted with their new home: “Ivy Cottage is everything we were looking for – a period property with plenty of character, but with a luxurious finish throughout. The attention to detail is first-class and has meant that we can move our furniture straight in to the property without major disruption.”
“We are delighted to welcome Erica and Matthew to their first Duchy property,” added Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow, “and to Dunsop Bridge and Ivy Cottage in particular. We have committed significant investment to a rolling programme of improvement works over the next couple of years and will be applying the new Duchy standard wherever possible. The Duchy of Lancaster should be synonymous with quality and excellence in all of our properties to let, wherever they may be.”
For information on Duchy of Lancaster properties for sale or to let throughout Lancaster, please contact Simon Waller at Savills Smiths Gore on 01200 411052.