AN historic Abingdon building could go up for sale or be handed over to a community group.

Old Abbey House, owned by Vale of White Horse District Council has been empty since 2014.

In the past, there have been discussions about knocking down the 18th century building and replacing it with council houses, or renovating it and turning it into flats.

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The district council has now announced it is 'testing' the property market for buyers, and at the same time is in discussion with the Friends of Abingdon Civic Society to see if a community use could be found for the building.

Bethia Thomas, the council's 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.

She added: "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.”

Oxford Mail:

The Friends of Abingdon civic society in 2015. In the picture, left to right, Roger Thomas, Bobbie Thomas, Judy White, Hester Hand, Lesley Legge and Jackie Smith. Picture: Julian Rus

Hester Hand, of the Friends of Abingdon, said Old Abbey House had 'superb potential to be a community hub'.

But Ms Hand added; "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.”

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The building is not listed, and was originally built around 1780 by local businessman James Smallbone.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was home to Edwin Trendell, an ex-Mayor of the town, and afterwards owned by James Randall, Bishop of Reading.

In 1923, it was bought and used by Abingdon Borough Council and was home to Citizens Advice before being vacated in 2014.

In 2017 there were suggestions by the then-leader of Vale district council Matthew Barber that the building could either be renovated for use as council flats, or replaced with new council houses.

But these proposals were not taken ahead at the time.