Civil Service College retirement flats come with £1.2m price tag

Details emerge of homes at converted Sunningdale training base
Northcote House at Sunningdale Park Credit: Stephen Fulljames/Flickr

By Jim Dunton

01 Sep 2021

Details have begun to emerge of the properties available at the redeveloped Civil Service College at Sunningdale Park in Berkshire,  through which legions of departmental staff passed through the doors  between 1970 and 2012.

.The school’s centrepiece building, Northcote House, was acquired by retirement village operator Audley Group as part of the Cabinet Office’s wider sale of the 79-acre Sunningdale site to housebuilder Berkeley Group for £50m.

Audley is already marketing retirement properties at Sunningdale, with a one-bedroom apartment in Northcote House – described as the largest in the grade II-listed building – coming with a £1.2m price tag.

Some new-build retirement homes at the development come at an even higher cost. One two-bedroom penthouse apartment is  currently on offer for £1.46m. The cheapest property option presently being marketed at the development is a two-bedroom ground-floor apartment priced at £759,950.

Berkeley Group has yet to begin marketing the properties it is developing at Sunningdale, but promises a “wonderfully diverse” selection of new and refurbished options, ranging from detached properties to “glass houses” to luxurious apartments and penthouses.

Neo-Georgian Northcote House passed into government ownership in 1947, following the death of industrialist Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen. It housed the Civil Defence College from 1950 to the late 1960s and then the Civil Service College from 1970 to 2006. From 2006 to 2012 it was home to the National School of Government, of which the Civil Service College formed part.

As well as being used for training officials, the building is famous as the site of talks on the future of Northern Ireland in 1973. They led to the short-lived Sunningdale Agreement to form a power-sharing executive, which collapsed in May 1974.

In the 1990s, Northcote House also served as a training base for African National Congress officials being readied to take over government in South Africa at the end of apartheid.

The sale of Sunningdale to Audley Group and Berkeley Group was conditionally agreed in 2016, but was reliant on the firms gaining planning permission for redevelopment plans.

Last year the Cabinet Office confirmed deal had gone through and that the sale of more than 300 government buildings over the previous 12 months had netted the public purse £2.1bn.

At the time the deal was announced, the Cabinet Office said Berkeley had planning permission for 168 new homes at Sunningdale, while the retirement-village element of the scheme would result in 103 new properties for the over-55s,  plus a restaurant and other facilities.

Cabinet Office minister Lord Theodore Agnew said the disposal was a “concrete example of how reducing the size of the government estate can both generate money for vital public services and provide much-needed new homes”.

He added that the restoration of Northcote House and the opening up of its surrounding parkland for public use would also “benefit the local community for generations to come”.

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