DISCUSSION of who has won the right to take over a historic publicly-owned building in central Abingdon will continue behind closed doors for now.

Senior councillors on Vale of White Horse District Council's cabinet decided on a preferred bidder for the ownership of Old Abbey House at its meeting last week.

The decision was taken in a private and confidential session of the cabinet but it is understood there were several bidders from community groups as well as property development companies.

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Though the cabinet has made its choice for the building's next owner, the outcome of its discussions has not yet been made public.

The council's scrutiny committee will also discuss the preferred bidder in private when it meets on Tuesday, December 15.

A council spokesman said: "The Cabinet has selected its preferred bidder for Old Abbey House at the Cabinet meeting on December 4.

"As per the council’s standard procedures, the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee has chosen to exercise the right for that Committee to discuss the decision at a meeting on December 15.

"This will be a closed session given the commercial (financial) sensitivity of the bid. "

Residents of the town have circulated a petition calling for the building to be kept in public ownership or given to a community group.

Julie Kelly, who started the petition, spoke at the cabinet meeting last week, urging the councillors to keep Old Abbey House as a 'village hall' for the town.

Old Abbey House is not a listed building, but has a long history as a civic building and was once the residence of a mayor of Abingdon.