Oldham’s Old Library set for new chapter
Designs by Ellis Williams Architects bring a series of meeting rooms, a council chamber, an art gallery, and a theatre into the grade two-listed building off Union Street.
Oldham Council had listed the Old Library plot as a key component of its Creating A Better Place regeneration programme. The local authority’s plans for the Old Library focus on bringing it back into public use and improving its energy efficiency credentials without sacrificing its heritage features.
The 34,800 sq ft Old Library dates to 1883. It was a public library for more than 130 years, and was replaced by the Oldham Library & Lifelong Learning Centre in 2006. Public access to the Old Library stopped in 2017, and the building has been vacant ever since.
The submitted plans showcase phase two of the council’s Old Library revamp. The first phase, which sees main contractor Tilbury Douglas repairing and restoring the structure of the building, began last year.
Oldham Council Leader Cllr Amanda Chadderton praised the planning application submission of phase two of the Old Library project.
“This building has been special to many hundreds and possibly thousands of Oldhamers and it is yet another exciting milestone in its restoration to see the architects’ drawings as part of the planning submission,” she said.
“The visuals show a building that retains features of a hugely important part of our history along with providing a modern, useful and sustainable place for everyone in the town to make good use of.”
Dominic Williams, director at Ellis Williams Architects, shared his approach to giving the Old Library a new use.
“We recognise the importance of the Old Library building to the local community and understand that it has a special place in the hearts of many local residents,” he said.
“With that in mind, the newly refurbished building will celebrate Oldham’s cultural heritage whilst providing a range of exciting new community facilities including theatre workshops, meeting rooms, gallery and democratic function spaces arranged around the original Victorian atrium space with historic displays,” Williams continued.
“As well as celebrating the building’s Victorian past, the scheme also looks positively to the future with new digital infrastructure and low energy systems providing long-term sustainability for this important community asset.”
Phil Shaw, divisional director for Tilbury Douglas, said it was an honour for the company and its local supply chain to be involved in creating a new cultural hub in Oldham. He acknowledged the importance the project will have to the community as well.
“This is why we are focusing on ensuring the construction team also gives back to the local community through offering employment and learning opportunities inspiring the next generation of constructors,” Shaw said.
Already, the Old Library project has seen the generation of 143 weeks of apprenticeships, as well as 121 hours of education outreach and career support. Oldham Council estimated that this level of social value equated to around £2.6m.
Lambert Smith Hampton is the planning consultant for phase two of the Old Library project.
Turner and Townsend is the project manager and Keelagher Okey Klein is the principal designer.
Heritage Project Management is the heritage consultant. Rider Levett Bucknall is the quantity surveyor.
Curtins is the structural designer, AEC is the acoustic engineer, and SI Sealy is the MEP expert. Ridge is leading on lighting design.
Tetra Tech is the fire consultant. Buro Happold is the security consultant.
Mather & Co is advising on exhibitions and Stage Right is the theatre consultant.
For those interested in learning more about the project, the application reference number is FUL/350535/23 on Oldham Council’s planning portal.