Lib Dem led, Vale of White Horse District Council is looking to work with the Abingdon community to seek a viable future for Old Abbey House.
District Councillor for Abingdon Abbey Northcourt Helen Pighills
The district council no longer needs the house in Abbey Close and is looking for a new owner, with the priority to look for a use with a community focus.
The council will test the property market to see if there are likely to be any potential buyers and, in parallel, is in discussion with local group Friends of Abingdon Civic Society to see if there are any suitable community uses that could give the building a new lease of life.
Over the past few years, the district council has been working with various partners to see if there are ways it can put the building back into full use itself without the need to sell it but it has not been able to find a viable option.
Cllr Bethia Thomas, Cabinet member for development and regeneration, said, “We’d really like Old Abbey House to retain some kind of community use, or to find a use that the people of Abingdon are comfortable with, and so we’re hoping to work with Friends of Abingdon and other local people to see if there’s anything that can be done. We acknowledge getting the building back up and running is overdue, and we’re all hands to the pumps to try and get things moving. It might be that we ultimately have to sell it to get the best value we can for council tax payers.”
Hester Hand, of the Friends of Abingdon, said, “Old Abbey House has belonged to Abingdon for almost a hundred years. It’s a very fine and much-loved historic building in a wonderful location. It has superb potential to be a community hub, serving a wide range of needs in a post-Covid world. There is no doubt that bringing the building back into use now represents a major challenge. It will need energy, enthusiasm, ideas and resources. We are hopeful that these can be found within our community, and we encourage anyone who thinks they might be able to help to get in touch.”
Cllr Helen Pighills, local district councillor, said, “We are as keen as our residents to try and find a good way forward for Old Abbey House – if anybody has any viable ideas we might not have thought of, then please do get in touch with the district council.”
The building, which is not listed, was originally built around 1780 by local businessman James Smallbone. Later into the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was home to Edwin Trendell, an ex-Mayor of the town, and afterwards owned by The Rt Revd James Randall, Bishop of Reading. In 1923, it was bought and used by Abingdon Borough Council and was home to Citizens Advice for many years before being vacated in 2014.