A MYSTERY tenant has pulled out of a move into new restaurant buildings which have sat untouched for 12 months.

The units in Abingdon's Old Gaol development remain empty despite their proximity to 60 new riverside apartments, prompting the accusation that developers are "dragging their feet".

The letting agents admitted to the Abingdon Herald that unit one which was slapped with a "to let" banner exactly a year ago was destined to gather dust again after the business pulled out.

Chris Irving, of Fleurets, said: "The proposed letting has fallen through, however interest is now much improved with expressions of interest in all three units.

"It will probably take the next few weeks to ascertain if the interest progresses to putting the units under offer."

Abingdon Town Councillor Sandy Lovatt, who chairs the council's amenities and recreation committee, said: "This is important for the town but the developers are taking their sweet time and dragging their feet.

"Nothing has happened in all this time - I feel Abingdon needs this."

The Bridge Street building, which Mr Lovatt said was the "gateway" to the town, was bought by Abingdon-based developer Cranbourne from Vale of White Horse District Council in 2007.

The Vale originally valued the site at £6.3m but after the global recession in 2008 it said it settled for just over half that – £3.2m.

Cranbourne built a gym, car park and forty-three new flats, with a further 18 converted from existing buildings - some of which once served as a prison dating back to 1811, and others as a leisure centre built in the 1960s.

Old Gaol site manager Jacqueline Proctor said her team was in negotiations with a chain which could "potentially" let one of the restaurants, but admitted: "At this stage nothing has been signed so we are not able to disclose who."

She added: "I am quite confident that all three units will go.

"We are quite positive and hopeful that this will all come to fruition. Once the restaurants are open people can come along and have something to eat and look out onto the river and have a look round our public gardens."

She insisted no other sales had fallen through, though rumours floating about the town's foodie community suggested a Mexican restaurant then a tapas bar both had second thoughts about moving in.

She added: "To be fair the restaurants were only at the stage where they were ready to be let out in the last six months. It's not disheartening because at the time we were still focusing on the apartments."

The flats were all snapped up before they were even built.

Restaurants range in size from 1,507 sq ft to 6,781 sq ft, each permitted for use as food and drink premises with outdoor seating areas.