Jim McMahon Published: Tuesday, 15th July 2014

Oldham Council is to consider extending a pioneering scheme – supporting new and existing independent traders – into Shaw and Lees district centres.

The local authority launched an initiative to create a new ‘Independent Quarter’ in the area between Yorkshire Street, Clegg Street and Union Street (East) in Oldham Town Centre in November 2013. 

It saw a £1million investment package set up – which is already attracting a range of specialist traders* – and offers a wide range of support including Business Improvement Grants, property management support, mentoring and training.

A report recommending that a second phase of this scheme – extending similar support to independent businesses in Shaw and Lees – goes before Cabinet at its meeting on Monday, July 21.  

Subject to approval, a total of £200,000 (£100,000 for each district) will be invested to extend the offer of Building Improvement Grants to local businesses. This will greatly enhance the business support services already available to help firms develop ideas for business growth.

Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said: “Our Independent Quarter scheme in Oldham Town Centre is already seeing some really positive success stories and attracting new businesses.” 

“We now want to see what positive impact this kind of encouragement could have in our district centres.

“High Streets and shopping habits have fundamentally transformed in recent years in response to a range of threats such as online trading, out-of-town retail parks and supermarket chains setting up in districts. 

“That’s why it is essential that we support independent traders and try to stimulate this sector so they can flourish, help district centres to retain their distinctiveness, improve as areas and create new job opportunities as part of Get Oldham Working.

“In Shaw this proposal looks to capitalise on the arrival of Metrolink and complement the planned improvement of the local market – which will be launched later this year – and to enhance the vibrancy of the High Street scene.

“Lees village is different from other district centres due to its location along a major highway. It has fewer national traders than places like Shaw, for example, and already relies more heavily on independent traders who could really benefit from this kind of support. 

“The extension of this scheme should help to increase footfall, improve visitors’ experiences and how long they stay, and must also be in accordance with the aspirations held by local people for their area.

“It’s an exciting prospect to test the water and see how this scheme could support businesses in the district settings of Shaw and Lees and we would monitor its impact closely.”

The Cabinet report proposes that two review panels – one for each district centre - would be set-up to consider grant applications. Membership of the panels would be agreed by the relevant District Executive, include local Ward Members, and report recommendations to Councillor Jean Stretton as the relevant Cabinet Member.

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