The empty state of Old Abbey House has been brought to mind by the blue plastic sheets that have appeared on the porch roof. It has been empty since Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council and the Citizens Advice moved out of the building in May 2014, and was boarded up in October 2018 to stop vandalism.
During this time the property department at the Vale of White Horse District Council has been outsourced and brought back in house again, and that probably resulted in a lack of continuity in the people dealing with Old Abbey House. Reading the minutes of the VWHDC Joint Scrutiny Committee on 7th March 2019 I read ‘The property management and facilities management services were brought back in house as it became clear that it was not possible for the contracts to deliver the anticipated level of savings. Since bringing the services back in house, they had been co-located in one property team.’
So things should get better from now once the ‘one property team’ gets established.
It was suggested in the Abingdon annual parish meeting that providers of social housing will be contacted to see if they can use Old Abbey House. This is in line with previous announcements by the district council. The district council has said inbetween whiles ‘Working with Oxfordshire County Council and other partners, the district council is conducting a ‘one public estate’ review to look at how we can use Old Abbey House alongside other key public buildings and sites in the town.’
In their current newsletter the Friends of Abingdon say ‘The Friends are aware of several people who have contacted the District Council in the last 2-3 years with serious proposals to take on Old Abbey House for various purposes, all involving some degree of public use. It is disappointing that officers and councillors have declined to engage with them.’
It would be good if such options could be reconsidered by the incoming council after the election, and the new ‘one property team’.