THE developer behind Abingdon’s Old Gaol revamp wants to turn empty restaurant space into three flats and then run its own cafe/wine bar.

The radical rethink from Abingdon-based developer Cranbourne comes after years spent struggling to shift three restaurant units, despite 61 luxury flats in the same complex being snapped up before they were even completed.

Since the units were put on the market in summer 2015, just one has been let – to coffee chain Costa, which moved in last year.

The Bridge Street building was sold by Vale of White Horse District Council in 2007 to Cranbourne, which built a gym, car park as well as 43 new flats, with a further 18 converted from existing buildings – some of which once served as a prison dating back to 1811.

Other parts of the building date back to its use as a leisure centre.

Now the developer has submitted a planning application to divide the largest unit, converting half into three additional flats and use the money from their sale to fund a new cafe/wine bar in the remaining space.

A design and access statement submitted with application, stated the scheme was the result of a fruitless three-year search, which had led to 394 requests for the unit details and property details being forwarded on to 4,517 individuals and organisations.

It added: “ Agent feedback has been, that larger multiple restaurant chains have not bought into the location of The Old Gaol and that smaller operators are unable to afford the high costs involved with fitting out such a large restaurant space.”

It went on to say, while the development had on the whole been successful, hoarding boards were 'giving a sense of decline' and added: "The purpose of this planning and listed building application is to take proactive steps to remedy this situation and add vibrancy to the public realm in and around this part of Bridge Street, as has been the intention from the outset.”

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

The plans are available to view at

A consultation on the scheme will run until March 28, with a target decision date set for April 24.