A CALL has been made for progress at the site of Abingdon’s Old Gaol after it emerged the recession saw £3.1m wiped off its sale to developers.

Vale of White Horse District Council revealed that the former leisure centre in Bridge Street was sold to developers Cranbourne for £3.2m.

The council said that the sum it received in December 2007 was “far in excess” of the amount on offer from other developers involved in a tendering process.

But it has also revealed that a deal initially agreed with the developers was worth £6.3m.

Town council leader Sandy Lovatt, also Vale councillor for Abingdon Dunmore and county councillor for Abingdon North, said: “In 2007 the Liberal Democrats had to get the best deal at the time.

“What I would like to see now is the restaurants opened and the area connected up to the riverside.

“The whole point of the deal was to open up the area for the public.”

Forty-three new apartments have been built next to the Thames, with a further 18 converted from existing buildings, but three restaurants have not yet opened.

The £3.2m agreed was made up a £2m sum plus a £1.2m share from the sale of apartments A statement from the council said: “The deal originally agreed in 2007 had, at that time, been made when the property market was booming and was then worth £6.3m.

“After the recession hit, the scheme would not have gone ahead had the deal not been restructured on several occasions to take account of the economic conditions.”

Matthew Barber, the Vale council’s current Conservative leader, said the Liberal Democrat administration at the time had taken a “pragmatic” decision to sell to Cranbourne.

Mr Barber added: “In 2007 the market changed, the finance for Cranbourne changed and they came back to the council under the previous administration to renegotiate the deal and the council agreed.

“It was the best deal for the taxpayer – there was no reason to think they would have got a better deal by saying goodbye to Cranbourne.”

He added the council was now revealing the terms of the deal as it was no longer restricted by confidentiality concerns.

No one from Cranbourne was available for comment.