By Charlotte Green, Local Democary Reporter
COUNCILLORS have given the green light to proposals transform Spindles Shopping Centre and relocate Tommyfield Market to create a more ‘vibrant’ town centre.
Oldham Council bought Spindles Town Square Shopping Centre last year for £9.5million and then purchased the lease of the Topman for a further £300,000.
It forms part of the ‘Creating a Better Place’ strategy by the council, which was established in January 2020, and plans to make £3m in revenue savings a year.
Council leader Arooj Shah said: “The next year is a crucial one – as we recover from the pandemic it’s vital we’re taking the steps necessary to establish the borough’s future.
“There are many things beyond the council’s control but we can play a central role setting a lot of the ground for investment from the private sector, active communities and better lives.”
She added she understood people’s frustration about the pace of regeneration projects but hoped the report would reassure councillors that ‘progress is being made’.
“It won’t happen overnight but our plans are progressing well and our approach has meant that the cost and risk for Oldham is minimal while the rewards are potentially huge,” she said.
Under the outline business case plans, which were agreed by cabinet, Tommyfield Market will move from its existing site on Henshaw Street into a space in Spindles.
The new market will stretch from Town Square through the former TJ Hughes Unit and extend into Parliament Square.
Bosses say the space will be ‘completely redeveloped’ to provide a ‘purpose-built’ new market.
It will include a retail market, accessed from inside the shopping centre at the mall level, and on the ground floor linked to Parliament Square a new food hall is proposed to be created featuring food and drink from Tommyfield traders.
This area will also feature two flexible spaces which could be used for events such as live cooking demonstrations, pop-ups, small exhibitions, family activities and market events.
Above the new market hall, the authority is proposing to create a larger, split-level events venue which will be used for private and public functions.
The report to cabinet states it would hold up to 400 people for a ‘variety of events and council requirements’ and would replace the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It will also feature ‘roof-top views’ across the borough.
Bosses say that the new events space and market will be able to operate later than the rest of the shopping centre to boost the town’s leisure and night-time economy.
A new public archive area is also being developed which will exhibit artefacts from the council’s arts and heritage services.
This will be displayed partly in the new space on Town Square, and also in a newly created archive within one of the multi-storey car park levels.
Within the main shopping centre, the retail offer is to be ‘condensed’ into the downstairs to become the main shopping hub.
The council intends to re-purpose space on the upper floor to create a ‘flexible contemporary workspace to appeal to new entrepreneurs and growing sectors like creative design and media’.
The new co-working space will sit beside new offices for Oldham council staff which could extend to the floor above, which bosses say is predominantly unused and largely ‘hidden’ from public view.
This would lead to council staff vacating the towering Civic Centre, and allow them to look to re-purpose this site for an alternative use in the future, such as new town centre homes.
Both the offices plan, and the relocation of Tommyfield Market, are being supported by £24.5m of cash from the government’s Towns Fund.