Oldham Council’s plans to build a new Heritage & Arts Centre have been given the green light after the project successfully bid for funding from local philanthropist Sir Norman Stoller and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The HFL has approved a grant of £3.379m towards the project. Stoller is donating £4m, equivalent to 25% of the total cost of the development. Stoller made his fortune from Seton, which made the tubular bandage invented by his father. The remaining £8m is funded by the council.
Oldham Council and its partners are undertaking a phased programme over 10 years that is designed to deliver a Cultural Regeneration Programme in four stages:
- Heritage & Arts Centre in the old library building: alongside Gallery Oldham, Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre
- Conversion and commercial development of the Local Studies and old Museum buildings for new uses
- New Coliseum Theatre facility: adjacent and linked to the Heritage & Arts Centre
- Work to address the future of other heritage buildings on Union Street
Today’s announcement means the contractors for the Phase A Heritage and Arts Centre project, Gilbert Ash, can start work on-site early next year.
Later phases will be delivered as and when funding is secured. The council said there would not be a requirement for one phase to complete before another can start. Details of the programme for the later phases have yet to be made clear, other than all would have to be complete within 10 years or sooner.
For the first phase, the grade 2-listed former library building on Union Street will undergo restoration work and be adapted to modern access standards as home to the Heritage & Arts Centre. This will showcase the story of Oldham’s past from its time as the cotton spinning capital of the world to the present day with gallery spaces, archives, public research rooms, bars and meeting spaces.
Cllr Jean Stretton, Oldham Council’s leader, said: “We’re extremely proud of our history and heritage here and it is vital that is a key part of the regeneration of Oldham so that we can protect it for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
“The HLF have been crucial players in this project and have offered not just invaluable funding but expert advice and guidance. Their input has been essential and they have truly shared our vision for this scheme.
“And what can I say about Sir Norman Stoller’s contribution? We are starting to run out of superlatives to describe his generosity.
“Yet again he has stepped up through his charitable trust to make a stunning contribution and provide another lasting legacy for Oldham which adds to what is already an incredibly long list.
We are very proud of him and honoured that he continues to put his faith in this town. He remains an unmatched source of inspiration to local people of all generations. He isn’t just a knight – he is our knight in shining armour.”
Planning consent for the Heritage Centre and Coliseum Theatre schemes was granted in March 2015, followed by detailed discussions about funding, planning and phasing options – work in which the HLF played a key role.
The gift from Sir Norman Stoller’s charitable trust is the latest in a long line of significant donations to Oldham projects including the Mahdlo Youth Zone, the Oldham Enterprise Fund and the creation of a Maggie’s cancer support centre.
Sir Norman Stoller said: “The Stoller Charitable Trust takes great pride in investing in the borough of Oldham when we see schemes that can deliver genuine and tangible benefits to its residents. I believe Oldham has a great future, particularly if we plan and work hard to attract newcomers who want to share in the benefits of being a part of the new Northern Powerhouse of Greater Manchester.”