The owner of a hotel in Abingdon which has been described as an "eyesore" has revealed his latest plans for the site.

The Upper Reaches Hotel, off Thames Street next to Abingdon Bridge, closed in 2015 and has been boarded up.

The freehold of the site is owned by Vale of White Horse District Council and the area occupied by the hotel buildings and its immediate surroundings is on a 125-year lease dating back to 1969.

READ MORE: Future of 'eyesore' hotel still in limbo

Since 2004 the lease has been held by Contemporary Hotels.

Friends of Abingdon Civic Society have urged the owner, Ambar Paul, to meet council leaders to decide its future.

Mr Paul told the Oxford Mail yesterday that he closed the hotel in 2015 after it started losing £100,000 a year.

Herald Series: The Upper ReachesHe added that he is still required to pay £60,000 to £80,000 a year to keep the site secure.

Mr Paul said he was prepared to invest millions of pounds in a new venture on the site if the district council would grant him the freehold.

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He added: "We put in a pre-application earlier this year for a 19-room boutique hotel, and then we were also going to have 10 two-and-three-bedroom houses.

"The council did respond but it was not extremely positive on the massing.

"Then there is another scheme for a larger hotel - you need 50 rooms in a hotel to make it successful, or a mixed use scheme.

"I am prepared to spend about £6m but I'm not going to spend that if I'm not going to get a return on it."

Herald Series: Mr Paul added that he would only be prepared to invest so much if he was granted the freehold to the site.

"The council would need to be flexible on massing as the hotel would need a nice restaurant and function room facilities," he added.

The hotel owner, who is based in London, said he understood the frustration of people living near the derelict building.

He added: "I'm hoping the council will be more flexible. This area could be a showcase for Abingdon. I'm not running away."

Mr Paul said he hoped to meet council staff, including deputy chief executive Suzanne Malcolm, before Christmas or early in the New Year.

"Someone has to take a commercial view as well as saying the planning conditions need to be met," he added.

Friends of Abingdon Civic Society said earlier that Mr Paul had also raised the possibility of a care home on the site.

Herald Series: The Upper Reaches hotelA spokeswoman for Vale of White Horse District Council said: "The council continues to discuss The Upper Reaches with the current tenant, Contemporary Hotels Limited, and to encourage them to come forward with plans for the site.

“In addition, in February 2023, we published a study to look at potential redevelopment options in Abingdon, which encompassed key properties owned by the Vale council, including Upper Reaches, and this sets out the council’s aspirations.

“Whilst we continue to do everything we can, it is important to note that The Upper Reaches site is leased out on a 125-year ground lease, which started in March 1969.

"Under the terms of the lease, the tenant as occupier is responsible for how the property is utilised, as well as being responsible for the upkeep of the fabric of the building and the wider site.”

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

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