Oldham aims for £41m Government backing

Oldham’s Town Deal Board has submitted plans to secure support from the £3.6bn Towns Fund, with a focus on five capital projects.

The list is headed by a £16m plan for new events space for organisations including Oldham Coliseum, for which a £27m new theatre plan had previously been advanced before being ditched in 2018.

Of the other projects, two involve the repurposing of space at the Spindles shopping centre, which was acquired by the council in October for an undisclosed sum.

The projects put forward are:

  • Making Space For Live Performance: this £16m project will provide a new flexible performance space in the town centre for use by local arts and culture providers including Oldham Coliseum. Based within a redeveloped Old Post Office and former Quaker Meeting House at 84 Union Street, which will both be retained as part of the project, it will provide additional creative arts and performance spaces that meet modern requirements.
  • Northern Roots: proposed as the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park, this would see the creation of 160 acres of “high quality green space and environment enhancement” on holdings including Alexandra Park close to the town centre. Funding of £8m is sought to support enabling works and access routes, along with the construction of a visitor centre, education centre, market garden and mountain biking hub.
  • Minewater Heat Network: converting water from flooded coal mines into energy to create an environmentally friendly power source for the town centre: Oldham wants £4m to support the drilling of two boreholes and feasibility testing.
  • The relocation of Tommyfield Market from its existing site into Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre: £7m is sought to support this element of the council’s Oldham Town Centre Vision.
  • Flexible Workspace: also a project to repurprose space at the Spindles, this £6m project would see office space delivered within what has become an  oversized shopping centre. The aim is to appeal to entrepreneurs and creatives.

The council is hopeful that its focus on re-using existing building stock will stand it in good stead with a Government keen to burnish its own sustainability credentials and demonstrate reduced carbon use in capital projects.

Peter Holbrook, chairman of the Oldham Town Deal Board and chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said: “The Town Investment Plan demonstrates that there is no shortage of ambition and aspiration in Oldham.

“The Town Deal Board formed last year and our aim was always for Oldham to be a place where business and enterprise can thrive and where people will want to live, visit, relax and work.

“The pandemic has underlined the importance of this vision and the projects identified will be crucial in helping the borough to rebuild and recover.”

Oldham is among the 101 towns selected to submit a bid. The TIP will be followed by a detailed business plan for the projects.

Cllr Sean Fielding, council leader, said: “The Towns Fund is all about levelling up places like Oldham. We’ve identified some really exciting projects which will put Oldham on the map and pave the way for a brighter future for our town.”

At various stages in recent years, Oldham has tried to pull together its key projects in masterplans, with the latest key move being an over-arching £306m plan, a third of it bankrolled from the council’s own funds, announced in January.

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