A HISTORIC Abingdon pub that was set to be turned into flats has been rescued as part of a £75.6m national deal.

Brewery Greene King had drawn up plans to partially demolish the 17th century Cross Keys in Ock Street and turn it into six one-bedroom apartments.

But now it has sold the inn to new pub investment company Hawthorn Leisure Ltd, along with 274 pubs across the UK.

A Greene King spokeswoman said: “After making the difficult decision to sell the Cross Keys, we have been exploring the possible options available to us.

“Since this planning application was submitted we have now agreed to sell the pub to Hawthorn Leisure and we will be withdrawing the application.

She added: “Our strategy is to reduce the size of our tenanted and leased estate and to improve the overall quality of our remaining pubs. To achieve this we continually review our pubs and do sell those that no longer fit within our core estate.”

Announcing the £75.6m deal, Greene King said it had agreed a three-year beer supply deal for all the pubs from its own “ale brand portfolio”.

It is not yet clear whether the Cross Keys would be included in this supply arrangement.

Hawthorn Leisure is a new investment company backed by New York global investment firm Avenue Capital and London’s May Capital.

Oxford Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) pubs officer Steven Green welcomed the news.

Mr Green, who lives in Abingdon, said: “Certainly in Abingdon we have rather a lot of Greene King pubs, which means there is a lack of choice of beers.

“It’s certainly far better than it turning into flats.”

He said he thought the pub had potential to do better, and should look into having more entertainment such as live music.

Former Cross Keys landlady Lisa Rowberry quit the pub in December after running it for less than a year, saying trade had been hit by Wetherspoon’s opening in the town centre and an assault in the gents’ toilets.

Abingdon town historian Jackie Smith said town records suggest there has been a pub in that building since the 1680s.

A family of inn keepers, the Giddens, owned the building at that time, and it has been called The Cross Keys since 1854.

In the late 19th century it was one of seven Morrells pubs in Abingdon, owned by the brewing family who lived in Culham.

In the past two years in Abingdon, Oakman Inns has bought The Crown and Thistle and Stocks bar for £1.4m and spent £1.8m on renovations. Dushan Salwathura, owner of The Nag’s Head, The Bridge, has invested £250,000 refurbishing the pub.