Abingdon Abbey Grounds – The 3 Scenarios – progress to date

November 23, 2014

The Abingdon Area Committee of the VWHDC (Vale of White Horse District Council) meet on Mon 24th Nov 2014 to consider the results of the consultation into the Abbey Grounds.
Abingdon Abbey Grounds
The consultation considered previous studies that had some bearing on the Abbey Grounds, but really involved 30 Abingdon Community groups at a meeting on 4th November, and 60 pupils from Larkmead and Fitzharris Schools at another date. These consultees ranked how Abbey Meadow facilities are valued by the community:
Abingdon Abbey Grounds
The consultees also considered what could be added to improve the area with ideas such as: circular walks with better surfaces, adventure playground, picnic area, outdoor gym, bandstand …

3 scenarios have now been put together to improve the area using £500K set aside for that purpose by the VWHDC. The 3 scenarios will be first discussed at the Abingdon area committee, and then the VWHDC cabinet. Then the three scenarios will be put forward for people to vote upon during Jan – Feb 2015.
Abingdon Abbey Grounds
In one of the scenarios (focus on structured sport and recreation) the open air pool is opened out to the splash area and has a cafe added; in another scenario (focus on tourism and leisure) the open air pool is removed and replaced with a cafe; and in the third scenario (focus on informal use of green space) the pool is not mentioned but there are better walks.

Peter Harbour from Friends of the Outdoor Pool would love to hear from people about what the pool means to you. There is a comments area on the friends website so that would be a good place to write. He would like the pool to continue whatever else is done.
Abingdon Abbey Grounds
Other facilties are even more in danger because of their low usage and lack of investment. They include the tennis courts …
Abingdon Abbey Grounds
crazy golf, and pitch and put, especially as the VWHDC have to pay somebody to operate a second kiosk to keep them going.

Filed under: Abbey Grounds

22 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Ali.  |  November 23, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    I’m a bit bewildered by this, so consultation is based on 30 picked community groups & school pupils or am I completely reading this wrong? Should consultation not be for the wider community of Abingdon?! I guess we will all have different views but if the outdoor pool gets taken out that’s another leisure facility lost. The pool & the tennis courts both get used during the summer months. Maybe the cynical part of me thinks it’s already been decided!

  • 2. ppjs  |  November 24, 2014 at 6:19 am

    It’s a bit of a vicious circle: If the tennis courts aren’t maintained will fewer people use them? And then will the lack of maintenance be justified by the low use? And so on…

    Many towns of Abingdon’s size in France have well-maintained tennis courts.

    I am not a tennis-player, so have no vested interests!

  • 3. Cassandra  |  November 24, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I agree with both of the above contributors. Lack of representative consultation with the wider community seems to be a feature of many ‘local bodies’ throughout the UK.
    I would like to see the existing sports facilities maintained, how else are we going to encourage people into active and social lifestyles in the outdoors. (Not everyone likes or can afford gym membership). Better surfaces for walking might be a good idea though.
    What this area does not need is yet another large cafe. There are many lots within easy strolling distance. The existing one at the pool is fine for those wanting an ice cream or snack.

  • 4. Cassandra  |  November 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Forgot to add: if the promised development at the Old Goal site ever gets delivered, there will be more than sufficient cafe and entertainment facilities at the riverside.

  • 5. Guido  |  November 24, 2014 at 10:58 am

    On the subject of the riverside, what is happening with the “ISIS” outdoor theatre/music venue project at the Nags Head Island…has that been officially dropped now? Their website has disappeared, and it seems to have gone very quiet on this?

  • 6. Kennys hat  |  November 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    The crazy golf has been neglected for so many years that it’s bad enough you’d try it once and then not go back. It looks run down, the balls stick to railings where you can’t get a club to hit it and the kids get bored. It could to with ripping up and replacing with a new crazy golf course. By my reckoning what is there now has been there since the 70’s.

    Also, isn’t the traffic for the hydro project being routed through / around the edge of the abbey grounds? Sems a bit pointless spending money on amenities that’ll be ruined in no time by heavey plant vehicles to then not be replaced after.

    Oh and while I am ranting Cassandra’s question about the old gaol is a good one. Does anyone know if the promised development of shops and eateries is ever likelyto come to fruition or if the developer will be allowed to say “sorry, forgot that bit – can we put more housing in?”

  • 7. Cassandra  |  November 24, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Well the question posed by Kennys hat is appropriate also. It was something that got me wondering when I saw the plans for the Hydro. I am NOT against the Hydro project I must stress, but I did wonder whether the Consultation had investigated this issue. Or, has it been taken into consideration in the review of potential changes to the Abbey Gardens/Riverside?

  • 8. BykerRode  |  November 24, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Sounds of chain saws down by the play park today.
    That beautiful line of tall trees in the background of the first picture are losing a third of their height to the wood cutters. I cant decide if its vandalism or good housekeeping.

  • 9. Neil Fawcett  |  November 24, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I was at the ‘consultation’ with community groups, due to my involvement with the South Abingdon Residents’ Plan group, and I raised questions at the meeting about how the results were going to be presented.

    The whole meeting felt like the consultants had a pre-determined view of what the options should be, and that is exactly what has happened.

    The general view (in mt perception) was that you couldn’t easily rank things in the way the consultants asked us to – for example you can’t really rank the importance of the crazy golf against the importance of the river bank, and in some cases it wasn’t clear whether we were meant to be ranking things as they are or as they could be with investment.

    There certainly wasn’t any consensus that there were three clear options for development – views were much more varied than that.

  • 10. Dave  |  November 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    These trees need maintenance to continue to grace the meadow.

    More worrying is talk of disposing of the swimming pool, and the addition of a café and bandstand. As has been mentioned above, we have an abundance of cafes in the town, but this is our last open green space which people of the town and visitors can enjoy without the interference of commercialisation.

  • 11. Geoff Bailey  |  November 24, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    No more cafes please.Of course the existing facilities need maintenance and are mostly used in the Summer months but it would be useful to what the other riverside facilities cost. The 9 whole pitch and putt is used and it would be a sad loss if the outdoor pool was to go but for gods sake do nt waste a lot of this money on consultancy fees.

  • 12. Ali  |  November 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I am not really sure how it is even beneficial to rank the amenities/area. As quite clearly different people will have different views on what’s important. Surely it should of been a discussion on how to improve what is there currently & what if anything needs adding. I also agree another big cafe is not needed & personally think would spoil the area. I actually think how lucky we are to be able to go swimming or play tennis in such a lovely setting. I’m disappointed that the community can not have a say on the initial ideas. I’m just wondering how many of the people on the committee/cabinet live in the town!

  • 13. BenW  |  November 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    I don’t think the crazy golf would be missed, as Kennys Hat has said it is so badly neglected and run down that it’s a waste of space. It needs to be replaced or removed.

    I wonder about the tennis courts as well, with multiple courts available for hire at the White Horse centre are they needed?

    I wouldn’t want to see the P&P or the pool go though despite their being rated 6th and 7th. There is nothing to replace either of these, as someone whose kids are too old for the playground and the splash area they are far more important to me than the 1st and 2nd rated features.

  • 14. George  |  November 24, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    A few more benches would be appreciated.

  • 15. Steve  |  November 25, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Some ideas…
    1) We already have a first rate tennis centre up the road at the leisure centre so expand the play area in to where the tennis courts currently are. Create something similar to what Cutteslowe Park has in Oxford
    2) Revamp the crazy golf area so its fit for purpose and becomes more of a tourist attraction
    3) Or lose the crazy golf area and create an area with public gym equipment
    4) Leave all other space as is… and no cafes!!

  • 16. Neil Fawcett  |  November 25, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Ali – I completely agree – as the group I was in made clear – different facilities are valued by different groups of people depending on how they use the area.

    In answer to you question about the people who will make the decision – nearly everyone at the ‘consultation’ lives in Abingdon, the members of the Abingdon Area Committee mostly live in Abingdon but none of the members of the Vale cabinet who will ultimately make the decision live in Abingdon.

    re. the cafe idea. In my group there was no proposal to build a separate big cafe, but to revamp the current open air pool buildings to make them fit for purpose and to incorporate a cafe facility to replace the current snack hut and better public toilets. (One person dissented because they don’t want to keep the pool) The idea was to reduce the number of buildings by consolidating these facilities into one better one, improving the pool facilities at the same time.

    On the point about there being plenty of other cafes in town – I think the idea was to provide refreshments for people using Abbey Meadow, particularly families in the summer, rather than a big stand alone cafe, although other groups might have supported that idea.

  • 17. daniel  |  November 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    who are the ‘consultants’? Is it a private company. Or is it purely this “Abingdon Area Committee”?

  • 18. Tim  |  November 25, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    It would be a real shame if the open air swimming pool goes. It was great fun back in summers of the 1990s, climbing over the fence and going for a swim around 3am after sticky carpets kicked out! Wouldn’t be the same without it!

  • 19. newcomer  |  November 26, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Unfortunately, it appears that little can be done with £500K nowadays bar helping a few consultants keep the wolf from the door so I think it’s essential that ‘consultancy’ be kept to a minimum if anything of substance is to be achieved.

    Thinking about consultants, it seems that the Guildhall Cinema project has been flying under the radar for a while and it would be interesting to have an update on progress and current intentions.

  • 20. Vale Council Communications Team  |  November 26, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you all for your interest in this project.

    We know that the area is very important to residents and visitors to Abingdon. The Abbey Project is about making a significant investment to improve the facilities to help attract more people and encourage greater use outside of the summer months.

    To make it work we need the community to get involved and we have already spoken to 30 of the town’s community groups and pupils from the two schools mentioned to help generate some ideas.

    People attending the workshops came up with lots of great ideas, however due to space, budgetary and other constraints there are limits on what we can do. This is why we are working towards producing three viable but very different scenarios (drawn up using ideas suggested at the recent workshop events).

    In the New Year we will be going out to wider public consultation when everyone will get the chance to comment on these scenarios and help to identify where we should direct future investment – on existing facilities, strengthening the existing facilities or investing in new ones.

  • 21. Neil Fawcett  |  November 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    The consultants are from an organisation called Hidden Britain.

    Hopefully not this lot though:


    The Vale’s information is here:


  • 22. Gillian  |  November 27, 2014 at 10:36 am

    We need to keep the pool, it’s a valuable resource. Unfortunately, due to British weather, it is either practically empty or overcrowded in the summer months! Yes, the snack hut should be redeveloped into a small cafe, with some tables and chairs outside, this would be appreciated by parents and grandparents accompanying their children and other visitors to the river bank. Stock levels should be better managed too; it runs out of ice cream far too frequently!
    The crazy golf needs much improvement, but as a facility is brilliant for families so should be kept and upgraded. The pitch and putt is so badly kept that it’s practically unusable, but if it was managed better and the grass kept short usage would go up. Children, and others, move up from the crazy golf to the P&P, but then get dispirited as they spend ages looking for lost balls in the long grass!

    As others have said, you cannot rank the pleasure of walking along the riverbank vs playing golf with your children vs swimming vs just enjoying the green space. Abingdon has an excellent resource, but it needs better and regular maintenance and upkeep.

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