Oldham Council is set to press ahead with plans to deliver a new cultural offer for Oldham Town Centre.
Later this month Cabinet will be asked to approve a report and give the ‘green light’ to start work on the new Oldham Heritage and Arts Centre, to be based in the historic former Oldham Library and Art Gallery on Union Street.
They will also be asked to approve plans to investigate new options for the future of Oldham Coliseum Theatre.
Subject to Cabinet approval, work could begin on site early next year to deliver the Heritage and Arts Centre. Oldham Council have been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of just under £3.4million for the project, thanks to players of the National Lottery.
The venue will bring new life to an important heritage building and help create a vibrant cultural complex – sitting alongside existing destinations, Gallery Oldham and Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre.
Councillor Sean Fielding, Oldham Council Leader, said: “The new Heritage and Arts Centre will be a venue that the borough can be proud of – attracting residents and those from outside the borough. It will transform the town’s cultural offer for generations to come.
“People said the Old Town Hall would never be built but we delivered. It’s now a multi-award winning venue that last year attracted more than 300,000 customers.
“By building this new centre we will be creating a new tourism hotspot in a prominent town centre location, easily accessible to pedestrians or via tram or car.
“We’ll also be creating a catalyst for growth and regeneration and by going ahead with this project we’ll be guaranteeing a combined £7.3m investment from the National Lottery and private funding.”
As part of the plans to improve the town centre’s cultural offer, talks have been ongoing with Oldham Coliseum Theatre and Arts Council England about the original plans for a new-build theatre on Southgate Street.
Cabinet will now be asked to approve feasibility work on a range of alternative options to reflect changing requirements.
Cllr Fielding 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.”
Gail Richards, Chair of Oldham Coliseum, said: “We, along with Oldham Council and Arts Council England, are passionate about securing the future of theatre in Oldham.
“We are excited to be working with our partners on further developments, so that together we continue to provide access to a range of high quality theatre, with learning and participatory activities for all, for the best possible value for money.”
Alison Clark, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “I’m pleased to see Oldham Council continue to support culture as part of its regeneration plans and I recognise it was a difficult decision to postpone the theatre capital project.
“The Arts Council remains strongly committed to working with the council, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, the arts and heritage centre and other partners.
“We want to help develop a strong cultural offer for the town connecting up arts, heritage, theatre and creativity for people of Oldham and its visitors.”
Proposals for Oldham’s Town Centre Cultural offer will be discussed by Cabinet on Monday, November 19.