Local Planning (cont)
The Vale of White Horse District Council has produced a Local Plan for development in the Vale up to 2031. There is a requirement for provision of an additional 20,500 homes in the Vale over this period, and Abingdon is expected to take its share, with 1000 homes being planned for North Abingdon. The Plan has been submitted to the Secretary of State and is currently being examined. Provision of necessary infrastructure, such as improved access to the A34 at Lodge Hill, increased primary school places, appropriate medical services, and other facilities, will be essential. The Friends of Abingdon have contributed to the public consultations and will continue to monitor developments.
The application to the VWHDC to register Old Abbey House as an Asset of Community Value was successful. During the consideration of this application Old Abbey House was withdrawn from sale. It was expected that the moratorium period to allow a community bid to be registered would begin in early 2015 but, following the fire which destroyed the Council Offices shared by the VWHDC and South Oxfordshire DC, Old Abbey House was used as temporary accommodation for council staff. These occupants moved out in June, and the Vale Council immediately formally announced its decision to sell the building. The moratorium period started on 22 June 2015 and ended on 3 August. Unfortunately no community group came forward with a bid proposal, and consequently Old Abbey House is now up for sale again. The closing date for offers is 15 October 2015. The Friends will continue to monitor the situation and will scrutinize all plans for its future use very carefully.
At the beginning of June 2015 the Upper Reaches Hotel was closed with very little warning, and is now completely boarded up. The Friends of Abingdon have investigated the ownership and it appears that the site is owned by the VWHDC but is on a long lease to a company called Contemporary Hotels. We have asked what, if any, plans are in existence for the use of this important site. We do not want a repeat of the Old Gaol and Nag’s Head sagas with the southern gateway to Abingdon being dominated by a decaying boarded-up building.
The Friends continue to press for a Neighbourhood Plan for Abingdon. We have had useful discussions with members of the Town Council and our MP Nicola Blackwood, and are hopeful that now the local council elections are over some progress can be made.
The Printing House, located at the corner of Stert Street and Stratton Way, is currently being converted from offices to flats. The changes to the exterior of the building are cosmetic and will probably be a slight improvement to a rather ugly building. Therefore the Friends did not object to the application for change of use. Elsewhere in Stert Street an application has been made to convert the Hanoi Restaurant into commercial premises with flats above and an extension at the rear. The proposals are a sensitive improvement to a rather tired and shabby building, so again the Friends are not registering any objections.