Kevin Whitmore

My Place | Oldham

Growing up in Oldham in the 1980s and 1990s was a picture of decline, writes Kevin Whitmore of BECG. But look more closely and you can now see a town with a determination to make sure its best days are ahead.

When you think of Oldham what comes to mind? I’d bet it’s not the award-winning Alexandra Park.  Or the borough’s tourist attractions on the edge of the Peak District National Park. You might have enjoyed the internationally famous Saddleworth Band Contest. Or watched your football team play at Ice Station Zebra – otherwise known as Boundary Park.

More likely your view of the town will be coloured by years of depressing statistics, unwelcome portrayals by national politicians and perhaps distant memories of the 2001 riots.

As someone who grew up in Oldham during the 1980s, 1990s and early noughties I could be forgiven for thinking that the plight of my hometown’s football team has been a mirror of a more general malaise.

The decline of the high street due to changing shopping habits, cuts to public spending by central government and the relocation of major employers to other parts of the country have undoubtedly taken their toll.

But look more closely and you start to see a town with ambition, a sense of place and a political leadership that is determined to make sure that Oldham’s best days are ahead.

A masterplan for Oldham Town Centre would see new housing, offices, retail and leisure spaces developed across 21 acres by 2035.  Investments into other district centres, including Royton, labelled ‘the new Didsbury’ in 2017 due the number of independent bars and restaurants which had opened, are also being lined up.  Plans to create the UK’s largest urban farm and eco park as part of the ‘Eden of the north’ project are also in the pipeline.

Growing up in the north of the borough you cannot help but be shaped by the surrounding landscape and easy access to the countryside. As Oldham grows the balance between finding space for new employers to invest in the borough, as well as the new housing that the town needs, whilst respecting the landscape, will be fraught with difficulties.

But the opportunity to attract real inward investment into the borough is one that cannot be missed.

For too long towns around the northern fringe of Greater Manchester have been overlooked in favour of higher land values towards the south of the city region, contributing to a growing north-south divide.

With excellent schools, strong connectivity to Manchester City Centre and beyond, a growing leisure and cultural offer, plus easy access to stunning countryside, maybe it’s time to think again about what Oldham has to offer.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

I admire the confidence of people trying to boost Oldham’s reputation but it has had poor local leadership for decades and complacent politicians with limited ambition. The fiasco at Mumps being a prime example of everything being dumbed down. Using pretty Saddleworth villages as part of the Oldham experience is very noble but that isn’t Oldham and never was. Alexandra Park is five minutes from where I was born and may have won awards but has been a catalyst for anti social behaviour for many a moon. There needs to be a huge concentration by Andy Burnham on these forgotten towns. Manchester and Salford plus the south side of the city have productivity levels as high as Germany, and towns like Oldham akin to Greece. We are creating a mini Britain within this conurbation. Anyone seeing the difference in development on the motorway near Urmston say compared to Ashton, can see it is two countries.The greatest textile town in history deserves better than this.Education is the key to towns like Oldham and until that is properly tackled there will be little change.

By Elephant

Royton and Didsbury – indistinguishable!

By Andy Ritchie

“The greatest textile town in history deserves better than this”. LOL

By Lots of Love

Heard it all before Oldham is a dieing town, pie in the sky with all these proposals never happen

By Tony l

Oldham needs quality jobs! Not pound shops! Sort out the traffic congestion on King St and George st it’s a farce!

By P.D

The problem with North GM Towns is their poor connection to the wider world. The only reason that the Lancashire’s and Cheshire’s of this world are so popular is that you can escape the North West and flee to any destination in a very short time. If Oldham, Bolton, Rochdale, Bury etc are to really prosper, they need proper infrastructure such as express public transport (not just trams), proper motorway and road infrastructure and links to their outstanding hinterland.

By OldhamShmoldham

I have only lived in Moorside for 3 years and I would not live anywhere else. The people are so friendly, there is lots to do and the walking is stunning. I’m 70 in November and I love Oldham

By Julia

Rose tinted glasses very bad to say, but say compared to bury town centre Oldham is a disgrace !

By John szoltysek

Can’t believe Tameside have a councillor for growth.

By Just saying

Why is Lots of Love being sarcastic. Oldham once had more looms than the United States. It had 365 cotton mills. That statistic if you visit it today is hard to comprehend.

By Elephant

As someone who lived in Oldham for over 30 years I have always been defensive of the town especially around the negative comments from those people who have never even visited.

Oldham was once a very great and proud town and I am delighted at the prospects for its future.

By A Cynical

Bury is nothing special. The Rock looks like a mini Trafford centre attached to a shanty town.Tye one thing Bury still has is a decent market.Bolton is a lost cause. Rochdale though is looking better.

By Elephant

I was born and bread in oldham and to see it today breaks my heart, I also have my factory in oldham where we employ people from the oldham area

We have had zero help from Oldham council
My company is growing year on year and I have not seen any local MP pop his head in for a brew or even offer of support

I genuinely think Oldham needs more independent business like ourselves

and bring back the old Tommyfield Market of the years we all remember

#Oldham

By Paul Baker

This town called Oldham suffers just as bad as Ashton and Rochdale… Yes Manchester has done to Oldham what Amazon is doing to the high street. The Metronlink is sucking away all the disposable money of those that have to spend it and for those who don’t they can eat at the £1 burger van or any of the multinational fast food shops like Mc donadls or KFC or Subway. May I add that these companies earn in the billions and they pay all less than £15 per hours… The problem with Oldham is the problem with all other towns, they are all clones! Blackpool would be exactly the same if it did not have a theme park or the pier/beach. I agree with the comment below. poor local leadership! In fact its a shambles they haven’t a clue what generates money for a town other than leveling buildings and building car parks with so called money they dont have. To let people park in a town with nothing to visit other than everything your town has.

By Jonny

Subscribe to our newsletter