Council unveils first look at new town square shopping centre

Spindles Parliament Square (AEW Architects)

Oldham Council has unveiled plans for Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre following its acquisition to help regenerate the area.

It follows community and market trader pleas for the council to acquire the development and save the heart of the town centre.

The council said lots of fantastic ideas and suggestions from residents, businesses and market traders were put forward through recent consultations and are embedded in the redesign to help change the future of the building and support the town centre and local economy to recover.

They include requests for more things for all ages to do and see – including food, drink, leisure and entertainment – as well as a better retail offer.

The council said the existing market hall is no longer fit for purpose and traders have been clear about the importance of a brand new Tommyfield Market which maximises footfall, access to the adjacent car parks and public transport stops.

The new market stretches from Town Square, through the former TJ Hughes unit and extends into Parliament Square.

The space will be completely redeveloped to provide a purpose-built new market. This new location offers enhanced visibility in the heart of the town centre, with direct access to both the shopping centre and the Old Town Hall.

Entering it from inside the shopping centre, visitors will find a retail market and a wide range of services at mall level while downstairs, linking to Parliament Square, a food court will be created where they can enjoy food and drink from an array of Tommyfield traders.

This area will also feature two flexible spaces which can be used for things like live cooking demos, pop-ups, small exhibitions, family activities and market events.

The council also proposes to create a separate larger split-level events venue above the new market hall which can be used for private and public functions and will feature roof top views of the borough.

This new venue, which could host anything from live gigs to weddings, festivals and conferences, will sit on the floors above Town Square and can be accessed at both street and mall level. Thanks to its location at one end of the building, the new events space and market can operate later than the rest of the shopping centre to boost Oldham’s leisure and entertainment offer and its night time economy.

Spindles Market (AEW Architects)

A new ‘open to the public’ archive is also being developed to showcase artefacts from the arts and heritage services and make them easier to access than before. Visitors will be able to walk into the new space on Town Square to browse the displays then head downstairs into a newly created archive built within one of the multi-storey car park levels to discover hidden gems and special events.

This new venue will be in addition to Gallery Oldham and Oldham Local Studies and Archives, adding Oldham’s much loved culture and heritage into the retail and hospitality mix.

In the Spindles area, the plan is to condense the retail offer, with downstairs becoming the main shopping hub, flowing into Town Square and towards the new Tommyfield Market.

This will allow the council to repurpose space on the upper floor where it wants to create a flexible contemporary workspace to appeal to new entrepreneurs and growing sectors like creative design and media. This project, along with the relocation of Tommyfield Market, is being supported by a successful funding bid to the Government’s Towns Fund.

The new co-working space will sit beside new offices for Oldham Council staff which could extend to the floor above – at present this third floor is predominantly unused and largely ‘hidden’ from public view. By creating new council offices, it will enable the authority to vacate the Civic Centre and look at repurposing this for an alternative use in the future, such as new town centre homes.

Oldham council’s investment in Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre is central to its Creating a Better Place regeneration strategy, it said.

It will enable it to unlock brownfield sites for new homes and public open space and supports the commitment to protecting the green belt from development. It will also deliver savings for the council by cutting overheads from things like the existing market hall and civic centre.

Cllr Arooj Shah, Oldham Council leader and cabinet member for economic and social reform, said: “We are delighted to launch these initial plans which give a flavour of what Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre could look like and offer in the future.

“The way we shop has changed over the years and the pandemic has sadly accelerated the changing face of the high street across the UK, making the need for investment more important than ever.

“But the redevelopment is not just about shiny new buildings. It underpins our Creating a Better Place regeneration strategy by enabling the wider regeneration of Oldham and supporting the borough’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Oldham Council is leading by example, investing in our town for our residents and businesses.

“It will help to get a wider footfall back in the town centre while releasing sites like the Civic Centre and existing market hall for redevelopment – in turn protecting our green belt by putting brownfield first. And in doing that we can create over 2,000 new homes, 1,000 jobs and 100 apprenticeships when they are much needed.”

Spindles Offices (AEW Architects)

The concepts have been designed following a recent community consultation with views and comments directly feeding into the plans. More than 2,000 people had their say and shared their ideas for the future of the centre.

Cllr Arooj Shah added: “Your suggestions were invaluable in helping us get to where we are today. You told us you want key retailers, small independents, culture, leisure, entertainment and things to do with family and friends. We’re working hard to deliver that for you and are committed to bringing you on the journey with us every step of the way.

“We also want to know what you think of our other proposals for the borough’s regeneration, including plans for a new theatre space in heritage buildings on Union Street, Northern Roots’ urban farm and a new linear park in the town centre.

“This is your town and we want you to be central to creating its future.”

The concepts will be discussed by Oldham Council’s cabinet on Monday, July 26, when it will consider progressing the next phase of the centre’s redevelopment ahead of a more detailed planning application later this year.

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