Can we expect more civil service properties to go on the market in 2017?
Once home to the National School of Government, grand estate Sunngindale Park has recently gone up for sale. The plot comes with several buildings including the Grade II listed neo-Georgian mansion Northcote House and will be sold to developers on the understanding that it will be used as a residential retirement area. Much of the area will be kept as green space, but thirteen acres have been set aside for development. Consultations between Berkeley Homes, Audley Retirement and the local community will take place early this year in an attempt to keep the government estate to a minimum to give a better deal to the average UK taxpayer.
Based in Ascot, the estate has been owned by the Government since 1947 and played a major role in the training and education of some of the UK’s most important civil servants. It was originally provided by the family of Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen in lieu of tax duties, and has been used by a large number of Government departments ever since, including the Civil Service College. It was the home of the National School of Government until 2014 when it was taken over by the College of Policing for a short while. It also saw the signing of the controversial Sunningdale Agreement in 1973, a document outlining the sharing of power between the British Government and Northern Ireland.
The grand Berkshire estate sits in grounds of over 65 acres and includes extensive gardens, a lake, restaurant and conference facilities as well as a swimming pool and almost 300 bedrooms. All accommodation blocks are currently named after leading civil servants, although whether that will remain the case when the land is developed remains to be seen.
The selling of Government properties is something we’re likely to see a lot more of over the coming years, says Marylebone estate agent, Kubie Gold Associates. “Controversies around expenses claims and recent economic developments have meant that taxpayers want more transparency around what their money is being spent on. The Government is responding by selling off some of their large, expensive estates in an attempt to give the average taxpayer a better deal.”
The development of Sunningdale Park seems like a sensible one- our rapidly expanding and ageing population is set to top 70 million over the next 20 years and the average life expectancy has risen to 81 years. Proskips says, “There’s now more of a call for community housing and retirement schemes than ever before, so it will be interesting to see what the developers do with Sunningdale and what that means for other large estates.”
This isn’t a particularly new idea- Civil Service buildings have been being sold off for the past couple of years. These large estates are not only expensive to run, they’re often very opulent too- a real bone of contention for hard working people who see large chunks of their earnings going towards keeping them maintained. Best Gapp says, “There’s been a real change in culture over the past few years and civil servants are now expected to move to less plush offices. We’re expecting lots more opportunities to pop up over the coming months so any property developers with an interest in HMOs would be wise to keep a close eye on the market.”