Oldham scraps £27m Coliseum plan

Oldham Council has confirmed a £27m new-build theatre on Southgate Street will no longer be going ahead, but a £7m commitment to deliver a heritage and arts centre at the town’s library has been reaffirmed.

At a cabinet meeting last week, council bosses agreed a “new vision” for the Coliseum was needed after the original proposals, first put forward in 2013, saw a rise in costs and a fall in value-for-money.

These proposals would have seen the Coliseum theatre moving from its current home on Fairbottom Street to a new facility on the Southgate Street car park, fronting Union Street. The new venue was to include a 550-seat auditorium and a 170-seat studio theatre, and was scheduled to open by 2020.

Mecanoo was originally on board as architect, having first secured planning permission in 2015, but was replaced earlier this year as delivery architect by Ellis Williams.

Contractor Gilbert-Ash was appointed to the project in 2016 on a two-stage pre-construction deal, which would have seen it build the new theatre as well as refurbishing the Oldham Museum and Arts Centre.

The Oldham Museum and Arts Centre will be based at the Oldham library on Union Street and will still be going ahead, despite the new-build theatre being scrapped.

It has been backed with £3.8m of Heritage Lottery Funding along with nearly £4m from a private contributor. The grade-two listed library building has now been stripped out by Gilbert-Ash as part of its pre-contract services agreement, and Ellis Williams is also on board as architect for the project.

A separate archive development is also being brought forward to house collections that cannot be accommodated within the former library building and the adjacent Oldham Gallery.

The council has chosen two units at Prince of Wales business park for this part of the scheme, and has commissioned contractor Kier to carry out a feasibility study.

Cllr Sean Fielding, leader of Oldham Council, said: “In the current financial climate we’ve got to spend our funds wisely and that means reviewing our works and costs to ensure we get the best value for money for the taxpayers’ of the town.

“A lot has changed since the idea was first discussed six years ago, including the costs involved, so at this stage we are not going to continue with the current proposals to build a new Coliseum on the Southgate Street site.

“However, we’d like to make this clear – the council and our partners at Oldham Coliseum and Arts Council England remain fully committed to providing a high-quality performance space in the town centre, which is relevant, sustainable, and delivers high quality theatre.

“Over the next few months we will continue to draw up plans with the Coliseum and Arts Council England for a fit for purpose facility.”

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