Oldham town centre is set to be “transformed” after being granted £24.4m from the Towns Fund for 2021.
The £3.6 billion government pot was announced in January – with the money released to boost local economies, create jobs and help towns build back better from the pandemic.
Oldham is set to use its share of the funding to create the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park – providing 160 acres of high-quality green space for community use.
Part of the money will also be used to turn Tommyfield Market into a purpose-built facility in Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre (where flexible workspace will also be created).
The council is also launching the ‘Making Space – For Live Performance’ project – designed to expand the existing performing arts offer in scope, scale and quality. The development will be situated within a redeveloped Old Post Office and aspires to be a net-zero carbon enterprise.
Council leaders say the funding will be used with a focus on sustainability – placing green recovery at the heart of town centre regeneration.
The money was secured by Oldham’s Town Deal Board – a group dedicated to developing the borough’s Investment Plan.
Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council and Cabinet Member for Economic and Social Reform, said: “As Oldhamers we know our town has fantastic potential, and we are pleased that the Government have endorsed our vision for the town centre.
“Oldham bid for a competitive £41m for five ambitious projects that will make the town centre a place that mixes retail, work, homes and leisure, and will help establish Oldham as the greenest borough in Greater Manchester. Securing funding for four out of five is a great result.
“We will now look at alternative routes to delivering the fifth project – a Minewater Heat Network which could convert water from flooded coal mines into energy to create an environmentally friendly power source for the town centre.”
He added: “These projects will not only boost regeneration, they will also create much-needed jobs, apprenticeships, training and opportunities to support our recovery from the pandemic as sustainably as possible.”
The £24.4m Towns Fund funding follows Oldham’s successful bid for £10.7 million from the Future High Streets Fund – which will support other local regeneration projects such as making the town centre more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists, launching a new food hall in the Old Town Hall’s Egyptian Room, and opening a business hub for digital start-ups.
Peter Holbrook CBE, Chair of Oldham Town Deal Board and Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said: “We’re delighted to have received this funding which will realise the ambition for change in Oldham.
“The Town Deal Board is made up of private and public sector partners who all share a combined vision for Oldham to be a town where business and enterprise can thrive and where people want to live, visit, relax and work. The projects within our bid will help us to deliver that shared goal.
“My thanks goes to the Board and everyone who has played their part in securing this important funding for the borough. We look forward to continuing to work together to bring the projects to life and help Oldham realise its potential.”
Rio Ferdinand is helping change young lives with community programmes in Oldham and Salford
Ex-Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand and his foundation’s wonderful work is helping better the lives of young people in Oldham, Salford and across Manchester as a whole.
Over the past year, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and The Guinness Partnership have been putting together a vital social initiative aimed at providing opportunities and resources to young people across Greater Manchester, helping them develop their skills and aspirations for future working life.
Now, after a hugely successful 12-month campaign, their skills and progression community programme, participants are well and truly starting to feel the impact, with 90% of those taking part now stating that they are enjoying a clear idea and focus on what they want to do for a career.
It may have be thriving in Salford and Oldham at the moment, but given the benefit the scheme has already had — not to mention the ambition the Rio Ferdinand Foundation has shown around various areas of the UK since being set up in 2012 — we can only see this spreading further across the region.
The skills-based initiative engages young people aged under 25 years old and living in Guinness homes in a six-month skills-based programme which has been up and running in the two Manc boroughs, as well as the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, since March 2022.
Young people from both Oldham and Salford take part in a weekly schedule of activities designed to tackle youth unemployment, including digital media training (photography, product design, filmmaking, podcasting), building and construction, CV workshops, mock interviews and more.
Not only do these shadowing opportunities garner confidence and raise aspirations among other young people in the local community, but they also help directly develop their employability skills via mentoring.
For instance, Matthew, 19 from Royton in Oldham, completed the programme and then was supported to apply to the Guinness Aspire Awards to request funding to purchase camera and lighting equipment to help him start a small local photography business. Quality stuff.
Matt says that the scheme “has been an amazing opportunity and has given [him] a chance to get back on the right path… I know what I want to do now and can’t wait to start… I would recommend that other people in my position get involved with it in the future.”
As well as markedly increasing participants health and well-being, all 100% of those involved across Salford and Oldham reported feeling more confident, with many now enjoying opportunities with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation’s partners such as Warner Music, Kiss FM, The Jockey Club and the Gym Group.
Speaking on the programme’s success, Rio himself said in a statement: “The Foundation is committed to working with young people at the heart of their communities to offer support, training, and opportunities to those that need it… engaging with the Guinness Partnership has provided a great boost to our reach and our work”.
Well in, Rio. Thankfully, he isn’t the only ex-Manchester-based footballer still trying to make a difference in the local community either:
King Charles III acceded to the throne on 8 September 2022, and on the day of his Coronation, will be 74 years old – making him the oldest person to be crowned monarch in British history.
The King will be coronated alongside his wife and the Queen Consort, Camilla, in a religious ceremony held at Westminster Abbey in London – which is the same place his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II‘s Coronation was held in 1953, as was her State Funeral in September of last year.
The ceremony will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and is expected to be a more “simmered down” event in comparison to that of the late Queen’s Coronation.
Buckingham Palace said the Coronation will “reflect the monarch’s role today” and will “look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry” – with more details about the ceremony and celebrations on a national scale expected to be announced “in due course”.
But, on a more personal scale locally, Manchester City Council has just announced that residents in the borough can apply to close their road off so they can throw a street party.
The Council says it want residents from all over the city to “dust off the bunting and join their neighbours to celebrate the historic weekend” by hosting a traditional street party, and for those wishing to do so, if you make sure to submit an application by a certain deadline, then the road closure fee will be waived.
On top of this, Oldham Council has also announced that it applications are open for residents to apply for £100 grants to be put towards community street parties.
100 grants are available being awarded on a first come, first served basis.
Other Greater Manchester boroughs are also expected to announce celebration plans in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.