CONCERNED residents have called on Oxford East and Abingdon MP Layla Moran to look into how the sale of a historic building was handled following the announcement of plans to build more flats.

The developer behind Abingdon’s Old Gaol revamp last month submitted plans to turn empty restaurant space into three flats and then run its own cafe/wine bar.

The Bridge Street building was sold by Vale of White Horse District Council in 2007 to Abingdon-based company Cranbourne.

The radical rethink comes after years spent struggling to shift three restaurant units, despite 61 luxury flats in the same complex selling quickly.

Earlier this year the company also asked to almost double the time allowed to pay off a £1m affordable housing contribution for the site because of struggles filling the empty units.

It also follows controversy over the original sale. The authority originally valued the site at £6.3m but later revealed it had settled for just over half that – £3.2m – after the global recession in 2008.

Abingdon First, an anonymous group of local residents, have now written an open letter to Ms Moran urging her to press for a 'full accounting of the Old Gaol project to date'. The district council has always maintained that it is unable to provide the information while work is ongoing as it would break rules about disclosing commercially sensitive information.

Responding to the letter, Ms Moran said: “There are serious concerns about the significant reduction in the amount of money the Vale has received for the site, the failure to fulfil the commitments made to provide social housing, the reduction in the level of access through the site that was originally promised and the failure of the developer to fill the restaurant units. Given these concerns it is also unfortunate that the Vale has not yet agreed to publish more information about the original agreement eleven years ago.”

She added it was ‘difficult to see’ how information was still sensitive.