Phil Mayall, Muse, p Muse

Mayall says developing in your hometown brings added pressure. Credit: via Muse

Mayall ready to ‘fight like hell’ for Oldham

Muse’s managing director is a born and bred Oldhamer, which means the developer’s proposed transformation of the town centre is more than just another job.

Phil Mayall has had his eye on Oldham for years. Even before the council began its hunt for a development partner, his hat was already in the ring.

Speaking at a Place North West event back in 2021, Mayall made clear that he wanted to play a part in the regeneration of his home town.

Two years later, Muse prevailed in a competition for the £550m, 2,000-home regeneration scheme.

The developer is now active in five different Greater Manchester boroughs, with a focus on breathing new life into forgotten areas.

In Oldham, Mayall is hoping to emulate the successes Muse has delivered in places like Salford.

“I have worked on Salford Central and Salford Crescent for the last 16 or 17 years and it has always been a bugbear that I have seen the transformation and positive change [there] but I’ve not been able to do that in my home town,” he said.

“It comes with challenges and personal pressure. Most of my family still lives in Oldham so I can’t go back and visit without being asked what’s going on.”

Mayall is clearly proud to have the opportunity to improve his hometown and the council is happy to have him.

“Phil is a proud Oldhamer who is as passionate about Oldham as we are,” said Emma Barton, deputy chief executive – place – at the council.

“We’re delighted to be working alongside him and the whole Muse team.”

The residential-led plan in Oldham has similarities with other Muse schemes and many regeneration projects across the country.

The aim is to leverage the town’s strengths and by doing so, breathe new life into it.

Oldham’s key assets are its young and growing population, which equates to a large potential workforce – hence the need for homes, coupled with its connectivity to Manchester, according to Mayall.

“It’s got the assets, our job is to get the fabric right,” he said.

“We take these things for granted, and then they get lost in the noise. If you had to go and buy those things, how much would they cost you?”

Oldham Civic Centre plan p council

How the redevelopment of Oldham town centre could look. Credit: via Oldham Council

Developing in towns like Oldham can be tricky. There is a heightened level of scrutiny and expectation. Any misstep will be seized upon and weaponised by distrusting residents.

“There is real pride but there is also cynicism,” Mayall said.

“The Leader will acknowledge that, while there has been some good stuff over recent years, there have been a lot of false starts.”

The good stuff includes the council’s acquisition and redevelopment of the Spindles Shopping Centre, which is looking like a shrewd move.

The authority now has 1,000 staff based in former vacant Spindles shops that have been redeveloped into office space.

The council offices are just the start. Buying Spindles has provided Oldham with the impetus to kick its regeneration vision into action.

A business hub with co-working space, as well as a new-look Tommyfield Market are also planned as part of the overhaul of the retail complex, Barton said.

In recent years, the positive progress made in revamping the town centre has been overshadowed at times by politics. While Labour holds a significant majority in Oldham, its leadership has been less stable.

In each of the last three local elections, Oldham’s Leader has lost their seat; Sean Fielding in 2021, his successor Arooj Shah in 2022, and Amanda Chadderton in 2023. Shah is now back in the hot seat for a second stint as leader.

Mayall recognises that the leadership merry-go-round is far from ideal but is soothed by underlying stability and a desire for change.

“It did worry us [but] while there will always be some volatility in terms of candidates, I can’t see a situation when a new leader comes in and says ‘I don’t want to improve the town centre and I don’t want to improve people’s lives’.

“The council recognises and is fully behind the fact that this is step-change stuff. We’ve really got to get ahold of the town.”

If Muse and the council are to put their regeneration plan into action, they will need patience from the public – something Mayall is not too hopeful of – and the kind of help currently being bestowed on other down-at-heel towns.

Barton said: “Areas like Oldham, where there is a genuine sustained levelling up need, will clearly need strategic support in terms of government intervention to enable us to unlock the significant growth opportunity that our partnership with Muse provides.” 

Those keeping a close eye on the government’s levelling up agenda have had a keen eye on Blackpool.

The seaside town, whose deprivation statistics make for grim reading, has been singled out for specific intervention in recent years. It has received millions in grant support for various regeneration projects, as well as £90m to reverse housing market failure.

This kind of support is a lot to ask for but Mayall is in no doubt that Oldham is worth it.

“If you were to point to anywhere that has a need but where the outputs could be exponential it would be Oldham,” he said.

“It’s not going to be solved at a GM devolved level, it’s going to need the sort of approach that we have seen in Blackpool. We are going to fight like hell for that.”

Your Comments

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The loss of Sean Fielding, was a disaster for Oldham. He was the best thing to happen to the town in half a century.

By Elephant

The CGI should have horizontal rain and grey skies if it was realistic, “tall” buildings outside Manchester? I’m not sure if the values will stack up in Phil’s appraisal!

By salford fred

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