Former Civil Service College sold for retirement housing

Site in Sunningdale will be turned into homes and retirement apartments

Police carry out full security precautions at the impressive entrance to Northcote House at Sunningdale where talks are to take place on the future of Ireland in 1973. Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

18 Feb 2020

The Cabinet Office has sold the site of the former Government Civil Service College at Sunningdale Park in Berkshire for around £50m to developers who will turn the building into retirement apartments.

The sale of Northcote House to Berkeley Group, who will also build 168 new homes at the site, is part of the Cabinet Office’s plans to reduce the size of the government estate and free up land for homes. In the past year alone, 339 former government buildings have been sold, raising £2.1bn.

The government has owned Northcote House since 1947. It was used as a training centre for civil servants until 2012, when the Civil Service College, by then part of the National School of Government, closed.


In recent years, the building had been used as a conference centre and hotel.

The sale to Berkeley, which was conditionally agreed in 2016 pending planning permission, has now been completed.

As part of the development of the site, the listed building will be restored to form the centre of a retirement village with 103 apartments for people over 55, a restaurant and facilities for both property owners and local residents.

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. These led to the short-lived Sunningdale Agreement to form a power-sharing executive, which collapsed in May 1974.

Announcing the sale, Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnew said: “This is 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.

“The restoration of the listed building at the heart of the development and opening up of its surrounding parkland for use by the public will also benefit the local community for generations to come."

Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley said the firm was "delighted to be moving ahead with this exciting project and look forward to working with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and local people to create a fantastic community at Sunningdale Park, alongside a beautiful new 42 acre public park for everyone to enjoy.”

Above: Prime minister Edward Heath opens the Civil Service College, Sunningdale Park in 1970. Head of the civil service Sir William Armstrong has his back to the camera. Photo: PA

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