How this prime piece of real estate changed hands over the years
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 in 2006.
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, WC2.
Covent Garden's current landlord
Although most of central Covent Garden is currently owned by Capital & Counties, there have been several freeholders in the area’s history, including the 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.
Why the Trust was established
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.