BOSSES in Oldham are bidding for a £25 million fund to build a new performance space, high quality offices, an underground heat network powered by old coal mines and a huge new ‘urban farm’.
The borough is preparing to make a bid to the government’s Towns Fund, and has earmarked four projects to receive funding.
The £3.6 billion government fund aims to help support regeneration projects and stimulate economic growth in towns.
Oldham is among the 101 towns selected to submit a bid, which focuses on Oldham town centre, up to Alexandra Park.
The Oldham town deal board, made up of representatives from the public and private sector, are inviting residents to help develop the project business cases from this autumn.
The chosen projects include a new ‘flexible performance space’ in Oldham town centre. This would be a ‘sustainable 21st century venue’ to be developed as part of the wider cultural quarter.
New town centre offices are also planned to be developed to attract private sector occupiers into the town and away from Manchester city centre.
The borough’s underground labyrinth of flooded coal mines could also be used to create an environmentally friendly power source for the district around the town centre.
Council bosses have been investigating using the potential geothermal energy from old mine shafts as a means of heating new builds.
The final scheme earmarked for funding is the Northern Roots project to develop the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160 acres of green space at Snipe Clough.
If successful, the government cash could fund ‘key infrastructure’ such as a visitor centre for the site.
Peter Holbrook CBE, chair of the Oldham town deal board and chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said the funding would play an ‘important role’ in supporting Oldham’s ‘bold’ town centre regeneration plans.
“We have identified four exciting projects which we believe will help to transform Oldham for the better – but we want the community to shape the process and welcome their thoughts on the projects we’ve put forward or any other ideas they might have,” he added.
The bid for funding will be submitted in July.
Council leader Sean Fielding said: “The town centre is at the heart of our borough and the heart of our vision to create a better place and make Oldham the greenest borough in Greater Manchester.
“This ambition will be crucial in helping us to build back our local economy following the coronavirus pandemic and we look forward to submitting our bid.
“The funding will help bring some of these regeneration projects to life and level up investment and opportunity for our town.”
The Action Together charity is also helping the Town Deal Board to work with the local community while developing the project business cases required by government.