Property assets boosted Church Commissioners results last year.

The Church Commissioners, the investment arm of the Church of England, said the fund delivered a 14.4% return across all portfolios over 2015.

Property accounts for 28% of total assets, which overall returned 8.2% on its £7bn (€8.9bn) portfolio.

The Commissioners attributed this return to active management of a high-quality set of properties.

The best performing property class was strategic land, which returned 19.8%.

The asset class, which makes up 3% of total assets, provides development opportunities and activity centred on housing developments in smaller towns and cities such as Carlisle, Peterborough and Chichester.  

Residential property, which accounts for 6% of overall assets, returned 19.5% and commercial (4% of assets) returned 13.5%.

Indirect property – minority investments in property partnerships – amounts to 3% of assets and returned 12.8%.

The largest allocation is to rural property, which makes up 9% of total assets and includes farmland, renewable energy and minerals rights.

This allocation returned 9% over 2015.

The Commissioners focused on key sales, particularly of its global real estate investment trust (REIT exposure), and most of its student housing in the last three months of 2015.

Andreas Whittam Smith, first estates commissioner, warned that achieving such a satisfactory performance in future might be harder.

“But doing that on a grand scale recently through so-called ‘quantitative easing’ has had more impact on the prices of assets, especially real estate, than it has had on business activity.”

Timberland now makes up 4% of total assets, delivering 13% for 2015.

The estate is invested in the UK, the US and Australia, and activity included further acquisitions of Indian sandalwood holdings in Australia.

The Commissioners said it focused on making selective sales from the property portfolio and on further diversification. The moves are part of an effort to ensure its portfolio is more defensive in the face of expected market headwinds.