Letter to Layla Moran re The Old Gaol

By   9 March 2018


Interestingly, even though Ms Moran has decided not to respond to us, according to the Oxford Mail/Abingdon Herald website article, she has responded to our open letter.

Abingdon First, an anonymous group of local residents, have now written an open letter to Ms Moran urging her to press for a ‘full accounting of the Old Gaol project to date’. The district council has always maintained that it is unable to provide the information while work is ongoing as it would break rules about disclosing commercially sensitive information.

Responding to the letter, Ms Moran said: “There are serious concerns about the significant reduction in the amount of money the Vale has received for the site, the failure to fulfil the commitments made to provide social housing, the reduction in the level of access through the site that was originally promised and the failure of the developer to fill the restaurant units. Given these concerns it is also unfortunate that the Vale has not yet agreed to publish more information about the original agreement eleven years ago.”

See here for full article CLICK



We have had a reply from Ms Moran, our MP.

Unfortunately, (even though we have written and explained our reasons behind it), because we cannot give Ms Moran’s office our names or postcode, our MP is unable to engage with us to enable us to pass on her thoughts and views to the rest of you. (See her email below).

If anyone does hear from her, she is willing for us to share that, or indeed, if anyone would like to put their name and postcode forward to us, to use on our behalf, we would then be entitled to hear what she has to say.

It is unfortunate that “clear parliamentary convention” will not “allow” this; although, as we pointed out, our previous MP, Nicola Blackwood, WAS prepared to engage with us.


The Old Gaol Abingdon (Case Ref: LM6057)



Dear Ms Moran,

It has been a concern of ours for quite some time, the fiasco that surrounds the sale of The Old Gaol, Abingdon, from the Vale to Cranbourne Homes.


We have submitted numerous FOI requests to the Vale, and below is the transcript from one of them, regarding the costs that were actually involved. See http://www.abingdonfirst.co.uk/2015/09/abingdons-old-gaol-the-truth-about-that-deal/

Abingdon’s Old Gaol….the Truth about THAT Deal …


2 Comments on “ Abingdon’s Old Gaol….the Truth about THAT Deal ! ” 25 Sep 2015 10:16 pm AbingdonFirst Post author. Taken from Councils own Press release today …


Dear Abgindon First

Thank you for your FoI request for information in relation to the Old Gaol.  The Vale Council’s responses to your queries are set out below.


  1. When does the “Commercially sensitive” information regarding the deal between yourselves and Cranbourne Homes, become non sensitive anymore, (After all this is now over 7 years down the line, so cannot possibly still now be commercially sensitive where competitors may have been concerned when the deal was struck?The Vale Council has kept the deal confidential since it was first agreed.  There were two main reasons for this: first to respect the developer’s commercial information, in order to protect the Vale Council’s town centre redevelopment ambition; and second to avoid disclosing details of the unsuccessful bids to the winning developer, in order to protect the public purse.  As a result, the Vale Council has helped to keep the development on track.  However, the development is not yet complete and occupied, and the Vale Council wishes to keep the development on track, so we will maintain confidentiality on any commercially sensitive information until the development is completed and occupied, when we will review whether any additional information can be disclosed. 
  1. How much was actually agreed for the sale?  On BBC Radio Oxford a while ago, Conservative Councillor Sandy Lovatt let slip that he had heard that the figure was £7 million. Is this correct?The final sale figure agreed by the Vale Council for the Old Gaol site is £3.2 million, which is well in excess of the next best tender bid when the site was marketed in 2007, plus £1 million towards affordable housing provision.The timeline for achieving this sum was as follows:
  • following a tender process in 2007, the Vale Council agreed to accept the highest bid for the site, which was for some £6.3 million to be paid from the developer’s sale proceeds – however, these proceeds were estimated in December 2007 when the property market was booming and the residential units were expected to sell high
  • shortly afterwards, the market collapsed and RBS withdrew its original funding agreements, therefore the Vale Council agreed in September 2008 to renegotiate the contract to keep the development viable and on track – the agreed capital bid of some £6.3 million was changed to a shared risk-based approach based on a capital receipt of some £3.75 million plus a share in the developer’s sales receipts (overage)
  • due to continuing difficulties in the market, and in order to keep the development viable and on track, the Vale Council agreed a further variation in March 2010 by reducing the capital receipt to some £2 million along with an overage provision.
  • following completion of the demolition and archaeological works as required by the contract, the Vale Council transferred the freehold to Cranbourne in August 2010 based on this revised agreement.
  • in view of the continuing uncertainty in the market, the Vale Council agreed in October 2012 to the certainty of a fixed one-off overage payment of £1.2 million, rather than the uncertainty about the variable level and timing of overage to be paid during the development in accordance with the terms of the contract
  • finally, in view of the changed local housing need in Abingdon, the Vale requested a commuted sum in lieu of the remaining affordable housing provision. Cranbourne therefore agreed to pay £1 million on a staged basis. The developer had already provided ten units of affordable housing at the former ambulance station in Abingdon. 
  1. How much of the original amount has now been paid by Cranbourne Homes, and when, if ever is the remainder to be paid?The developer has paid the Vale Council some £2,033,500 + £40,354.81 VAT for the site + £1,200,000 as overage + £100,000 as the first of a series of staged payments towards affordable housing provision = £3,333,500 + 40,354.81 VAT.The remaining £900,000 contribution towards affordable housing provision is due to be paid as five annual payments of £180,000, starting in April 2016, making a total receipt of £4,233,500 + 40,354.81 VAT. 
  1. We have heard that the Vale has “written off” the remainder of the debt as a long term loan, is this correct, and will Cranbourne ever be made to pay back the remainder of the money? This is not correct, as shown above. 
    1. Will any money paid for the Old Gaol ever be paid back? (Abingdon BADLY needs a cinema and other entertainment facilities, but it seems that Oxford, Botley, Didcot and other localities are getting all of the funding, leaving Abingdon way behind, to the detriment of businesses and shops in the town.This query does not fall within the FoI legislation.  However, any receipts from the disposal of land and buildings are for use by the Vale Council across the district and not necessarily used specifically for the area where they were generated from.“Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “As time passes we are less restricted by commercial confidentiality concerns, so it’s good that we can release this information. £3.2million is a good deal for the people of Abingdon and the wider Vale.” (This only after we submitted a FOI request!)(In the FOI, we were told “However, any receipts from the disposal of land and buildings are for use by the Vale Council across the district and not necessarily used specifically for the area where they were generated from.”) So not such a good deal deal for the people of Abingdon then?!Our concerns now are as follows. Despite obtaining the Old Gaol at a hugely discounted cost, (Cost to the taxpayers of Abingdon!), Cranbourne Homes have now tried to renege on their deal and extend the period of payment over several years more. http://www.abingdonfirst.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Covering-letter.pdf

      ! I Il ! i CD — Co 00 D o o < X CD o o o o O < CD < o 01 …


      Created Date: 12/21/2017 2:08:08 PM

      Now in the latest twist and turn from CRANBOURNE OLD GAOL (ABINGDON) LIMITED, (was Dissolved 24/06/2014)

      CRANBOURNE PROPERTIES (ABINGDON) LLP (was Dissolved 24/06/2014)

      CRANBOURNE OXFORD LTD (was Dissolved 24/06/2014)

      CRANBOURNE HOMES Ltd, have submitted a planning application, to use one of the existing “restaurant” spaces, and build a small cafe/wine bar which they will run themselves, and in the rest of the space, they will build 3 more luxury apartments! See http://www.abingdonfirst.co.uk/2018/03/old-gaol-fiasco-pt-5-or-is-it-6/ 

      Our wider concerns, are that as CH seem to be the Vale’s favoured builder, that they will eventually get, (at an obviously reduced cost again!), their hands on The Upper Reaches Hotel site, The Old Abbey House, and possibly the Guildhall site, all prime locations for luxury apartments.

      This company has no regard for Planning Laws, (they have still not replaced the willow tree at the Old Gaol), and at 65 Oxford Road (a property that the same directors purchased under the name “Orchard Developments Ltd”, AKA Cranbourne Homes/Orchard Homes/Poolway), they bulldozed every tree and shrub, in a blatant disregard for planning control. See http://www.abingdonfirst.co.uk/2015/08/65-oxford-roadold-gaol-willow-tree/

65 Oxford Road/Old Gaol Willow Tree | Abingdon First


We have had a response to our Freedom of Information request regarding 65 Oxford Rd, and the blatant disregard of planning control in April 2012 by Orchard …

With the history of this company, and the way that they have reneged on deals that they have been given, and blatantly flouted Planning controls, we feel that there should be some intervention to stop these company directors, in whatever guise they are in and whatever company they are calling themselves, to ever allow them to get their hands on Abingdon assets ever again!

As the MP for Abingdon, should it be time that you asked The Vale and CRANBOURNE HOMES Ltd, for a full accounting of the Old Gaol project to date, so that the public can be given a full and unabridged account of how well The Vale had been looking after the financial interests of the voters of Abingdon. 

We look forward to your response on this matter.

Kind regards


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