GPA secures permanent site for Darlington Economic Campus

Work to build Treasury’s second HQ will start next year and complete in 2026, Cabinet Office says
The Brunswick Street car park where the new Darlington Economic Campus will be built Photo: Google Maps

By Jim Dunton

26 Sep 2023

The Government Property Agency has bought ministers’ preferred site for the permanent home of the Darlington Economic Campus, which will serve as the Treasury’s second headquarters and host staff from several other departments and agencies.

Last year, a car-park site on the edge of Darlington town centre was unveiled as top pick for the DEC’s long-term base, which is currently in temporary accommodation at the nearby Feethams House complex. The site has now been purchased and work is expected to start on the hub next year for completion in 2026.

Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin said the campus would be a base for 1,400 civil servants – an increase on previous statements indicating “more than 1,100”. Feethams House currently hosts around 600 staff.

Quin said the development of a permanent hub at Brunswick Street is a “visible signal of levelling up in action”.

“Levelling up is about tangible change on the ground and the purchasing of the Darlington Economic Campus land shows that the government is putting down roots in the communities we serve,” he said.

“It will not only create job opportunities for people in the local area, it also means a civil servant could pursue an entire career to the top of their profession without ever moving to London.”

Alongside the Treasury, the Darlington campus will house teams from the Department for Business and Trade; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Office for National Statistics; and the Competition and Markets Authority.

The Department for Education already has a standalone base in Darlington town centre at Bishopsgate House, which also served as the DEC’s first temporary home.

The Darlington campus is part of the Cabinet Office’s Places for Growth programme to relocate around 22,000 roles from London by the end of the decade. Yesterday's announcement said that under the programme, 1,139 roles have so far been committed to Darlington and 674 relocated to date. 

The town was named as the location for the Treasury’s northern campus in 2021 by then-chancellor Rishi Sunak.

GPA director of capital projects Clive Anderson said choosing to invest in the land and freehold required for the Darlington campus was an opportunity to design the new hub as a “landmark, sustainable, placemaking building”.

“Working closely with Darlington Borough Council, Tees Valley Combined Authority and our clients, we will create unique opportunities for people across Darlington and the northeast,” he said.

In July, GPA chief executive Steven Boyd said “significant” construction-cost inflation and major changes in the cost of borrowing had led the agency to “re-evaluate” its approach to site acquisition for the hubs programme.

Writing in the agency’s annual report and accounts, Boyd said increased rent levels being sought for long-leasehold office buildings had prompted a shift towards a “self-delivery approach” at the GPA that favoured the creation of freehold assets funded by Treasury borrowing.

A construction contract tender for the Darlington hub is expected to be released through the Crown Commercial Service Construction Works Framework later this year, the Cabinet Office said.

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