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Agents appointed for sale of 31 hectare government site in Berkshire green belt

UK government public property management arm the Government Property Unit (GPU) has taken steps to prepare for the sale of a 31 hectare site in the green belt on the Berkshire-Surrey border, according to a report in the Estates Gazette.08 Dec 2014

The Sunningdale Park site is owned by the Cabinet Office and was used as a civil service training facility from the 1950s until 2012, since when it has been leased to De Vere Venues for use as a hotel, training and conference centre. The site includes a 'major developed area' with around 20,000 square metres of floor space and a Grade II-listed 1930s mansion called Northcote House set in formal parkland.

The Cabinet Office held an exhibition last year to discuss possible future uses for the site, which it said included re-use or development of buildings in the major developed area and the potential to provide continued employment use or to "contribute towards alleviating" local housing need. According to the Estates Gazette report, property management company Gerald Eve has now been appointed to bring the site to the market.

"We have a rigorous programme to ensure the best use of the land and property held by government, to dispose of what we don't need and to drive down the cost to taxpayers of what we keep," said GPU executive director Bruce Mann, according to the Estates Gazette. "The publication of the development opportunity brief on Sunningdale Park signals our intention to dispose of the site and get best value for taxpayers."

The site was identified in the adopted Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale neighbourhood plan as "an important site providing jobs in [the] area". The plan noted that "we would very much like to see it retained in this capacity". However, the plan also recognised that "it may ultimately come to pass that the only viable option for securing the site's future is for a change of use for residential".

The neighbourhood plan required that the local community be "involved in drawing up plans for any redevelopment of this important site", that community benefits be secured from any redevelopment and that the provision of jobs at the site be encouraged "if at all possible".

According to Cabinet Office materials produced last year, there is an opportunity to end the current land use arrangement on the site in 2017.