Covent Garden is a unique destination that attracts more than 40 million visitors a year.
The freehold of what is legally referred to as the ‘Protected Lands’ is currently owned by Capital & Counties who bought both the Central Market building and several other properties in the immediate area in 2006. However, there have been several freeholders in the area’s history. Up until 1988 the properties were owned by the Greater London Council (GLC) who restored the buildings and converted them from their former use (the famous fruit and vegetable market) into the lively mixture of shops and restaurants that visitors can enjoy today.
When the GLC was disbanded, the Trust was formed to safeguard the buildings that the GLC had owned and was granted a 150 year lease on buildings that make up the ‘Protected Lands’. They are the Central Market, Bedford Chambers, the Museum block, 25-31 James Street and 7, 9 & 10 Floral Street.
The Trust has clearly defined legal powers and can refuse alterations to the appearance of, or changes of use for, any of the buildings within the protected lands. On the whole, this has worked well and led to only one major dispute in the past when, in 1996, Trustees refused permission for a 700-seat restaurant in the Bedford Chambers block overlooking The Piazza. The Trust was taken to arbitration but won its case.
The original freeholder was Guardian Royal Exchange, but at the end of June 2000 the freehold was bought by insurance giant Scottish Widows. A year later they joined forces with Henderson Global and together formed an investment company called Covent Garden Market Limited Partnership, which eventually sold out to Capital & Counties.
Since acquiring the Protected Lands, Capital & Counties – through its subsidiary Covent Garden London – has bought other surrounding buildings and now administers an estate totalling more than 1 million sq. ft. The estate is managed by the Covent Garden London team who are based in James Street.