Sunningdale sale: former national school of government sold for development

The Cabinet Office has sold 70-acre Sunningdale Park in Berkshire to Berkeley Homes and Audley Retirement.

The site, which until 2012 was home to the National School of Government, has been conditionally sold, depending on planning permission being granted for a residential and retirement scheme.

A development opportunity brief has been drawn up, following consultation with Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, outlining possibilities for the site.

Sunningdale Park includes 19,500 sq metres of existing accommodation, including Northcote House, a Grade II neo-Georgian mansion, training accommodation with associated lecture theatres, residential accommodation and sports facilities.

The north west of the site, totalling approximately 13 acres, has been designated as suitable for redevelopment, with the remaining space given over to the parkland.

Berkeley Homes and Audley Retirement will be working up their proposals for the site over the coming months. These will be displayed to Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and the local community during 2017.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Ben Gummer, said:

"The sale of Sunningdale Park shows our absolute commitment to shrinking the government estate so that it works in the best interests of the taxpayer. The deal not only offers the best value for taxpayers, but is also the scheme most sympathetic to Sunningdale Park’s beautiful surroundings.

"The estate is now almost 25% smaller than it was in May 2010, we continue to re-examine all our property contracts and holdings to make sure that the taxpayer is always at the front and centre of our property outlook."

The site has been owned by government since 1947 when it was offered in lieu of tax duties by the family of previous owner Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen. It subsequently became home to the Civil Defence Staff College and has been used by a number of government organisations, including the Civil Service College and National School of Government, until 2014, at which point the College of Policing occupied it on a temporary basis.

Nick Sanderson, CEO of Audley said:

"The purchase of Sunningdale Park is a unique opportunity, and we are pleased to be developing this site in partnership with Berkeley Homes. This is the first time Audley has developed a site in a joint venture with a house builder, and it is partnerships like these that are vital to addressing the UK’s housing shortage: creating housing that is not only aimed at first time buyers, but can free up much needed existing housing stock by giving older people a greater choice of suitable and aspirational housing.

"We are extremely proud of our exemplary record in securing planning permission and are looking forward to working closely with the local community and stakeholders over the coming months.

"We can’t wait to get started on Audley Sunningdale and look forward to the development of our 15th retirement village."

Gerald Eve advised the Cabinet Office, while Berkeley Homes and Audley Retirement were unrepresented.


Gerald Eve advised the Cabinet Office, while Berkeley Homes and Audley Retirement were unrepresented.

Northcote House

Northcote House is a grade II listed neo-Georgian mansion, which was built in 1931 by Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen, President of the British-American tobacco Company and Chairman of Cunliffe Owen Ltd. It replaced a large mansion that was originally in this location. Sir Hugo and his wife shared a love of horseracing and hosted many Ascot parties.

Sunningdale Park

On Sir Hugo’s death in 1947, Sunningdale Park was sold to the Crown and, following this, the Civil Defence Staff College was established in January 1950. The House in this period is perhaps most famous as the site of the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, which established power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Occupants of the site during this time included the Civil Service College, the Centre for Management and Policy Studies, and the Sunningdale Institute, a collection of leading thinkers on management and governance. From 1975 until its closure in March 2012, Sunningdale housed the National School of Government.

Cabinet Office appreciates the historic nature of this site, and wishes to ensure that the impact of future development on the setting of the existing heritage assets is carefully considered. Where appropriate, this should be mitigated physically or through social and public benefits. As such Cabinet Office has commissioned a report by an independent heritage consultant to assess the heritage assets of Northcote House and the wider Sunningdale Park.