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Cabinet approves creation of new depot and ‘eco centre.’
Friday 1st February 2019 @ 09:04 by Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans to redevelop an ageing council depot and create a new ‘eco-centre’ in Oldham have been approved by town hall bosses.

The borough’s cabinet has agreed to replace the Alexandra Park depot and replace it with an ‘environmental centre of excellence’ that will utilise green technology, including solar power and biomass heating.

The depot, off King Street, is used as the base for the council’s environmental services.

The new eco-centre would build on activities already taking place in the park and the existing five community growing hubs.

It would become a demonstrator site giving residents more opportunities to get involved in ‘green’ and growing projects.

Council leader Sean Fielding said: “It’s quite ambitious around the growing of food, building on our cooperative ethos as a borough and it’s how we build the Oldham model to life.

“The first phase of this is to rebuild the Alexandra Park depot which will be powered by renewable energy and will also be an attraction in itself compared to the current tired and outdated facilities that we use at Alexandra Park at the moment.”

Work related activities with Oldham College and other educational providers surrounding horticultural and environmental skills would also be factored in.

And the new base would be able to support the authority’s ‘Get Oldham Working’ programme.

Councillor Zahid Chauhan, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, added: “Those 160 acres of green space should be enjoyed by the residents, it should be helping us to set up a green enterprise creating the right atmosphere for the mental health groups and many other groups.”

The new office space, operational buildings, greenhouses and storage facilities would be powered by green technology including solar power, biomass heating, and utilise water harvesting systems to recycle water. 

The cabinet report states that the ultimate aim is for a cost neutral service for the entire project.

Deputy leader Coun Abdul Jabbar said: “Not only will we be protecting that green space but we will actually be enabling people to grow their own food, produce renewable energy and actually train people in many different areas.

“I think this is the next big thing for Oldham and I genuinely mean that, I think there are so many opportunities here both in terms of green agenda, in terms of employment, getting local people to participate with what’s on their doorstep.”

The new eco-centre would also act as an anchor development for the proposed launch of the ‘Northern Roots’ project.

No costs have yet been revealed for either development.

The project aims to build on previous work by the council over the last six years around working co-operatively, community growing, horticulture skills and training, renewable energy and building the local food economy.

The project would initially focus on the 160 acre Snipe Clough site next to Alexandra Park.

Council bosses will now look at ways to enhance the usage, sustainability and biodiversity of the land, and offer more opportunities for recreation and leisure.

The space could also be used for growing and green enterprise projects with an aim of attracting more visitors.

The proposed work would see historic features within the Grade Two listed park, which dates from 1865, being retained.

Coun Paul Jacques, cabinet member for education, added: “Rather than just leaving a field barren we’re actually enhancing the green belt and I think it’s so important and I would imagine you’d have schools colleges and nurses queueing up to use this facility.”