Bell Pottinger grabs high profile Royal account

The Duchy of Lancaster – a property portfolio that generates income for the monarchy – has drafted in its first agency.

Bell Pottinger North has been hired as the Duchy faces major changes to the way it manages its land.

The agency will advise on stakeholder communications and general PR strategy as the Duchy starts complying with British planning legislation.

Before last year, the Duchy could build on land as it saw fit. But changes in legislation mean it now has to apply for planning permission.

‘The changes mean we will have to consult people we did not before,’ said Duchy of Lancaster chief executive Paul Clarke. ‘We only have a small team here and need the people to do this in an organised way.’

Five agencies were shortlisted, reporting into Clarke. BP North MD Chris Warham, who heads the account, said the stakeholder relation programme would be wide, given the size of the Duchy’s portfolio.

As well as estates in Lancashire, the Duchy also covers siza­­ble estates including those in Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and the Savoy Estates in London. The amount of money the land provides is audited, and in the year leading up to March 2006 added over £10m to the royal coffers.

The Duchy is effectively an inheritance dating back to 1265. The Duchy merged with the crown in 1399 when Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, became King Henry IV.

Queen Victoria attested that a Queen should remain the Duke of Lancaster and today’s monarch still effectively holds that title. The Duchy exists under special legislative terms, but lost its rights concerning planning permission after a consultation with a parliamentary committee last year.

Clarke said that BP North’s first project would centre around convincing stakeholders when large planning permission req­uests are made. But in the future the brief could expand to cover public understanding of the Duchy’s role.

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