Indie retail district to boost Oldham town centre

Simon Donohue

The creation of a vibrant independent shopping district will be at the forefront of a £1m Oldham Council initiative to revitalise the town centre and increase visitor numbers.

The council's cabinet has approved a £1m package of support for the town centre as part of a policy framework designed to boost existing and new independent businesses.

The initial focus of the framework will be to create a new 'Independents' Quarter' in the triangle between Yorkshire Street, Clegg Street and Union Street East.

The council will support the refurbishment of key buildings and the relocation of existing businesses by providing building improvement grants and assisting independent firms to acquire their own buildings, with potential grant support.

Further research will be conducted into the demand and supply of business premises in the town centre, while mentoring, advice and support will be offered to retailers.

The vision is to improve the town's retail offer and support viable local independent businesses that will attract footfall and also create a more attractive and effective linkage between key development sites.

The framework is part of a strategic approach to tackle areas of current low demand in traditional high street areas.

Cllr Jim McMahon, leader of Oldham Council, said: "This framework is an absolutely vital part of our plans to transform what is on offer in Oldham town centre.

"We already have a series of major regeneration projects underway that will dramatically enhance our entertainment, cultural and leisure offer including schemes for a cinema and restaurants at the Old Town Hall, Hotel Future, a new leisure centre, plus a new Coliseum Theatre and Heritage Centre.

"This package is a further part of our strategic review of the whole town centre.

"It will initially help us to strengthen the identity and distinctiveness of the Yorkshire Street 'triangle' in a range of ways by supporting existing and new start-up independent businesses in the area, whilst also enhancing the local environment and boosting visitor numbers and footfall."

Cllr Shoab Akhtar, cabinet member for business and town centres, added: "This package will crucially also create a much-needed single 'front door' for business support and property management arrangements in the town centre.

"Each business would have an 'account manager' who would offer wide-ranging support, look at their needs and help them access all relevant help including grants, training and mentoring.

"The framework also seeks to offer equity grants to help independent business make property acquisitions in this area, and provide more flexible occupational agreements. Help in purchasing essential equipment, fixtures and fittings would also be available.

"We're also very clear that in addition to wanting to attract new independent businesses and breathe new life into empty units, we are also determined to create a better town centre environment.

"That's why building improvement grants would be on offer: to help to improve the exterior of key buildings and shop fronts in line with our aspirations for the area and alongside the improvements we're already making to the public realm.

"We believe Oldham town centre can become the strongest in north Manchester and this framework – to boost and revitalise the distinctiveness of what it offers – is essential to realising that vision."

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Good plan. Too many town centres have the same rubbish chains where you can buy the stuff online anyway. Having more distinctive shops will encourage footfall.



By Katz