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Town hall pushes ahead with £16m arts and heritage centre.
Tuesday 27th November 2018 @ 18:09 by Anna Fletcher
Business Community Entertainment News

Town hall chiefs have agreed to push forward with proposals for a new £16 million arts and heritage centre in Oldham.

The former Oldham Library and Art Gallery on Union Street.

It marks the third phase of a two-decade transformation plan to establish a ‘cultural quarter’ in Oldham.
At the town hall’s latest cabinet meeting, councillors voted in favour of relocating the museum, archives, local studies and stores to the vacant former Library and Art Gallery building on Union Street.

The Heritage and Arts Centre project is being supported by around £3.4m worth of Heritage Lottery funding.

Through his charitable trust, Sir Norman Stoller donated £3.9m – a quarter of the total cost.
The remaining is being funded by the council.

Following the green light from cabinet, bosses say work could now begin early next year and they will now go out to procure a contractor for the works for the Grade-II listed building.

Town hall chiefs say it will ‘showcase the story of Oldham’s past’ – from its time as the cotton spinning capital of the world to the present day.

The original artist impression for the Oldham Heritage and Arts Centre.

There will be gallery spaces, archives, public research rooms, bars and meeting spaces.

Members have also tasked officers to investigate other options for the Oldham Coliseum Theatre after it was revealed last week that plans to build a brand new theatre on Southgate Street have been shelved.

A feasibility study will examine all options about what form the proposed ‘high quality sustainable’ performance space should take.

Once they have identified the requirements for the space such as the size and ideal shape, they will be able to identify a preferred site.

Council leader Sean Fielding told members that the costs had escalated so much for the new build theatre that the best thing was to ‘think again’ about the plans.

He said: “For myself, culture is something that will set Oldham apart from other towns and make us a place that people want to visit and it is still very much part of the offer that we want to build in Oldham town centre and it’s very important.

“However it was clear because of the amount of time that had passed since the original plans for the Coliseum theatre were drawn up and because of the escalation in costs we needed to think again about what we were going to do with that site.”

He added he remains ‘committed’ to the provision of a theatre in the town centre.

“The Coliseum theatre is well thought of in Oldham and far beyond the borders of the borough, not least because it appeals to people that are not typically considered theatre-goers,” Coun Fielding said.

“It has a broad reach in a way that lots of other theatres don’t, and we must continue to support it.

“But the time is right, when you see that the costs have increased, to consider whether that was the wisest way to spend the money at the time, and so we are going to consider again how we deliver on a new theatre option for the town centre.”

The council first published its plans for a cultural quarter in 1996, with phases one and two – Gallery Oldham and the Lifelong Learning Centre – completed in 2002 and 2006.