Oldham submits bid for £41m of government’s Towns Fund

Oldham town centre

Oldham Town Deal Board has submitted plans to secure £41m funding as part of the government’s Towns Fund

The board, made up of representatives from across the public and private sectors, has developed the Town Investment Plan.

By focusing on five ambitious projects, it will accelerate change across the town centre.

The projects are:

  • Northern Roots: the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park. This nationally significant project will create 160 acres of high-quality green space and environment enhancement for community use, a short stroll from Oldham town centre. Funding of £8m will support the cost of enabling works and access routes, the construction of key infrastructure including the 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. £4m of funding will support the drilling of two boreholes and feasibility testing.
  • Relocating Tommyfield Market from its existing site into Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre: Funding of £7m will facilitate the relocation of traders into the shopping centre as part of wider efforts to deliver the Oldham Town Centre Vision.
  • Flexible Workspace: Like the relocation of Tommyfield Market, the introduction of the town centre’s first Grade A office accommodation to Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre will diversify the space into a thriving economic and social hub with increased levels of footfall. Supported by £6m from the Towns Fund, the contemporary office space will appeal to new entrepreneurs and growing sectors like creative design and media, to deliver new jobs for local people and replicate successes elsewhere in Greater Manchester.
  • Making Space – For Live Performance: This 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. Backed by £16m from the Towns Fund, it will play a significant role in post COVID-19 recovery.

In keeping with Oldham Council’s sustainability ambitions, most of the projects will be reusing and repurposing existing buildings, rather than building new, thereby minimising the carbon footprint of redevelopment and placing green recovery and clean growth principles at the heart of town centre revitalisation.

Peter Holbrook, chair 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, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.”

The Town Deal Board meets regularly, and has been meeting virtually during the coronavirus pandemic, to develop Oldham’s Town Investment Plan and brings together a very diverse range of key stakeholders and perspectives.

The Towns Fund is a £3.6bn government fund which aims to support regeneration projects in towns which have a proud industrial and economic heritage but have not always benefited from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas.

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 and cabinet member for economy and enterprise, said: “The Towns Fund is all about levelling up places like Oldham. The pandemic has widened this gap so this national investment will make a real difference to creating jobs, opportunities and growth when it’s needed more than ever.

“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.”