Hotel idea for historic town building

Herald Series: Vale council leader Matthew Barber at the Old Abbey House in Abingdon, which is being sold by the district council. Picture: OX66716 Antony Moore Buy this photo Vale council leader Matthew Barber at the Old Abbey House in Abingdon, which is being sold by the district council. Picture: OX66716 Antony Moore

A HISTORIC building next to an Abingdon park should be turned into a hotel, according to councillors.

Vale of White Horse District Council is selling Old Abbey House, former home of Abingdon Town Council, for between £600,000 and £1m.

Town councillors have said the 15th century house could be used by a business but should not be turned into housing.

But the Vale council has warned that it has a public duty to get the most money possible for the asset.

Vale council leader Matthew Barber said: “Legally we have to give best consideration for anything we sell.

“If there is a £500,000 difference between one offer and another, it would be very difficult to justify to the public going for the cheaper one.”

The Vale is selling the building through Savills, which has now extended the original April 16 deadline, to allow buyers more time to put bids together. Mr Barber said Savills had been approached by one applicant who wanted to run an arts centre in the building, but they had not made a formal offer.

Mr Barber added: “A hotel development would be quite popular and good for the economy.”

Money from the sale of Old Abbey House will go into the Vale of White Horse capital projects programme.

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Town councillor Iain Littlejohn said: “I would disappointed to see it developed for flats, that would be a shame.

“I want to see a beautiful building like that retain its public access. A hotel would be a very good use.”

He said the Vale “absolutely” had a choice about who it sells the building to, and said: “It is the council’s duty to do what is best by the taxpayer. A hotel would be an attractive use, but not the only one I could see working.”

Town councillor and chairman of the Vale Mike Badcock said: “There is a lovely garden at the back which needs to be protected, but I suspect if it comes down to getting the best value, the Vale may not have a lot of choice.

“I would like to see the building itself protected, it would be a great shame to lose it.

“I would have thought it would make a wonderful HQ for a firm of architects.”

Abingdon Town Council still meets in Old Abbey House but is in the process of moving to the Guildhall, where there are plans for a revamp including a cinema.

The town council’s archivist Jackie Smith said she was “quite concerned” about the historic building passing out of public ownership.

She said: “I would like to know its future was secure to remain as a building.

“Architecturally it’s not worth listing, its main interest is the connection with the Abbey and the fact it is in the town conservation area.”

Comments (4)

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11:52am Thu 24 Apr 14

doozer says...

For goodness sake! What is it with this Council that they decide to sell stuff that belongs “to Abingdon” in order to fund Capital Projects – which are what, exactly? The Vale Council ‘sold’ Tilsley Park. The Vale Council sold The Old Gaol. Now they are palming off Abbey House. It’s not theirs to sell...is it!? When Councils get/inherit/ are bequeathed these buildings , are they not done so for the good of, for the benefit of, for the use by, the residents of Abingdon – not to be used as a roulette chip. What covenants are in place regarding this building? Is the Vale allowed to just decide to sell it?

The public ‘duty’ that the ‘Council’ has...isn’t to get as much money as possible, but is to make the best use of the building as they can! Not to just sell it because they need some cash! An even if they ARE allowed to sell it...they should be looking at every possible avenue to avoid doing so. I’m a council tax payer of Abingdon. It’s MY building....and I haven’t given my blessing to the Council who represents me, to sell it!

And, looking at the past to help predict the future...the Vale has a very very poor record on “Selling” Abingdon’s assets – look at how badly the Old Gaol has turned out for us....can anyone please confirm exactly how much The Gaol was sold to Cranbourne Homes for. Can they please clarify why Cranbourne were able to renegotiate the price – after they bought it...and can anyone please confirm exactly when Cranbourne are going to ‘pay-up’ for the rest of the money they owe on The Gaol complex – it’s £2m Abingdon is still waiting for isn’t it? Wasn’t that £2m to be paid upon completion....? I bet that there is a gold screw, in a glass case, in Mr Cranbourne’s office....the final, and ‘completing screw’ of the Gaol Project...a £2m screw, no doubt!

Come on Vale...I would love a news story like this to fill me with hope...but, I fear, it fills me with dread.
For goodness sake! What is it with this Council that they decide to sell stuff that belongs “to Abingdon” in order to fund Capital Projects – which are what, exactly? The Vale Council ‘sold’ Tilsley Park. The Vale Council sold The Old Gaol. Now they are palming off Abbey House. It’s not theirs to sell...is it!? When Councils get/inherit/ are bequeathed these buildings [assets], are they not done so for the good of, for the benefit of, for the use by, the residents of Abingdon – not to be used as a roulette chip. What covenants are in place regarding this building? Is the Vale allowed to just decide to sell it? The public ‘duty’ that the ‘Council’ has...isn’t to get as much money as possible, but is to make the best use of the building as they can! Not to just sell it because they need some cash! An even if they ARE allowed to sell it...they should be looking at every possible avenue to avoid doing so. I’m a council tax payer of Abingdon. It’s MY building....and I haven’t given my blessing to the Council who represents me, to sell it! And, looking at the past to help predict the future...the Vale has a very very poor record on “Selling” Abingdon’s assets – look at how badly the Old Gaol has turned out for us....can anyone please confirm exactly how much The Gaol was sold to Cranbourne Homes for. Can they please clarify why Cranbourne were able to renegotiate the price – after they bought it...and can anyone please confirm exactly when Cranbourne are going to ‘pay-up’ for the rest of the money they owe on The Gaol complex – it’s £2m Abingdon is still waiting for isn’t it? Wasn’t that £2m to be paid upon completion....? I bet that there is a gold screw, in a glass case, in Mr Cranbourne’s office....the final, and ‘completing screw’ of the Gaol Project...a £2m screw, no doubt! Come on Vale...I would love a news story like this to fill me with hope...but, I fear, it fills me with dread. doozer
  • Score: 10

12:57pm Thu 24 Apr 14

icba1957 says...

Totally agree with Doozer. Can someone point out to me which party's local manifesto included this sale?

You can be sure,though, that once it is sold, there will be no public access to what will suddenly have become the grounds of the hotel/offices.

While I don't agree at all with the sale, any money raised should be put towards the Lodge Hill works, or other schemes to remove some of the traffic from the town. How about a bridge to take traffic directly from Culham to Radley and Kenningon, rather than through the town?
Totally agree with Doozer. Can someone point out to me which party's local manifesto included this sale? You can be sure,though, that once it is sold, there will be no public access to what will suddenly have become the grounds of the hotel/offices. While I don't agree at all with the sale, any money raised should be put towards the Lodge Hill works, or other schemes to remove some of the traffic from the town. How about a bridge to take traffic directly from Culham to Radley and Kenningon, rather than through the town? icba1957
  • Score: 3

2:07pm Thu 24 Apr 14

doozer says...

Unfortunately icba1957...a second river crossing (South of the Town) is yet another moot point, and another failing of ALL the various political parties that have had various tenureship of OUR town over the past few years and decades – and is something for which they should never be forgiven....! Let us put aside the fact that a second river crossing was part of the AbITS proposal – indeed a fundamental aspect that was required in order for it to be successful! The fact the bridge hasn’t happened..is it any wonder AbITS and the traffic still remains so bad. Anyway, putting that aside as I said... there is a rough plan/aspiration to have a second bridge, at some point in the future...however, all the various powers that be who are responsible for the forward progression of the town, have allowed Hallams Land Management – or is it Wimpy now... to build their 160 houses on the Drayton Rd development. That development uses land earmarked for the bridge access....OK, so the development is ‘on hold’, but rest assured...it will ultimately go through, I am sure....we wouldn’t want ‘progress’ to het in the way of ‘profit’ now would we! So what then – even less likely that a second river crssing will come to fruition! Still...at least then the Blue team can blame the yellow team for failing to do what the other one said they shouldn’t have not done before – and hope the dumb electorate get confused enough to forget all about it!

And of course, lest we forget...when a suggestion was given to The Vale for a great and grand plan to improve the southern A34 junction, have services, and also build a road to a second river crossing etc etc (all well funded from external sources!)...the biggest stumbling block the Vale could muster to put in the way was that “the land owners would never agree”...that was, I believe, until it was pointed out to them that THEY were the land owners... I think the whole thing went quiet then...and, all being well, we’ll forget about it all....won’t we?

No doubt unelected council officers who come up with all these crazy ideas will continue to get away with it...and the politicians can blame each other...and us poor residents can then just deal with the fallout!
Unfortunately icba1957...a second river crossing (South of the Town) is yet another moot point, and another failing of ALL the various political parties that have had various tenureship of OUR town over the past few years and decades – and is something for which they should never be forgiven....! Let us [conveniently] put aside the fact that a second river crossing was part of the AbITS proposal – indeed a fundamental aspect that was required in order for it to be successful! The fact the bridge hasn’t happened..is it any wonder AbITS and the traffic still remains so bad. Anyway, putting that aside as I said... there is a rough plan/aspiration to have a second bridge, at some point in the future...however, all the various powers that be who are responsible for the forward progression of the town, have allowed Hallams Land Management – or is it Wimpy now... to build their 160 houses on the Drayton Rd development. That development uses land earmarked for the bridge access....OK, so the development is ‘on hold’, but rest assured...it will ultimately go through, I am sure....we wouldn’t want ‘progress’ to het in the way of ‘profit’ now would we! So what then – even less likely that a second river crssing will come to fruition! Still...at least then the Blue team can blame the yellow team for failing to do what the other one said they shouldn’t have not done before – and hope the dumb electorate get confused enough to forget all about it! And of course, lest we forget...when a suggestion was given to The Vale for a great and grand plan to improve the southern A34 junction, have services, and also build a road to a second river crossing etc etc (all well funded from external sources!)...the biggest stumbling block the Vale could muster to put in the way was that “the land owners would never agree”...that was, I believe, until it was pointed out to them that THEY were the land owners... I think the whole thing went quiet then...and, all being well, we’ll forget about it all....won’t we? No doubt unelected council officers who come up with all these crazy ideas will continue to get away with it...and the politicians can blame each other...and us poor residents can then just deal with the fallout! doozer
  • Score: 2

6:58pm Sat 26 Apr 14

piper2011 says...

please can the head honcho of the council please explain why they hate this town so much and why they are determined to run it in to the ground ?
please can the head honcho of the council please explain why they hate this town so much and why they are determined to run it in to the ground ? piper2011
  • Score: 0

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