Oldham Council’s plans to build a new Heritage and Arts Centre have been given the green light after the project was handed a vital double injection of funding.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has now approved a grant of £3.379 million towards the project following a successful Round 2 funding bid.
This means the total funding package needed for the project to proceed is now complete – thanks also to a once-in-a-lifetime offer of significant funding from local philanthropist, Sir Norman Stoller.
Through his Charitable Trust, which has given millions to good causes since the 1980s, the local knight is donating £4 million – 25 per cent of the total cost – to realise the exciting plans.
Oldham Council and its partners are undertaking a phased programme over ten years that is designed to deliver a Cultural Regeneration Programme in four stages:
- A) A Heritage and Arts Centre in the old library building: alongside Gallery Oldham, Oldham Library and a Lifelong Learning Centre;
- B) Conversion and commercial development of the Local Studies and old Museum buildings for new uses;
- C) A new Coliseum Theatre facility: adjacent and linked to the Heritage and Arts Centre;
- D) Work to address the future of other heritage buildings on Union Street.
The announcement means the contractors for the Phase A Heritage and Arts Centre project, Gilbert Ash, can start work on-site early next year.
The grade-II listed former library building on Union Street will undergo vital restoration work and be restored to public access as home to the Heritage and Arts Centre.
It will showcase the story of Oldham’s past from its time as the cotton spinning capital of the world to the present day with gallery spaces, archives, public research rooms, bars and meeting spaces.
In line with public feedback, the venue will enable more of the borough’s collection of objects and works of art to be on display – and increase public access to heritage assets including the museum and archive collections.
It will house improved educational facilities – including volunteering and training, outreach and engagement programmes.
An important part of the restoration work will see the former lecture hall in the venue becoming a performance studio space for use by partners like Oldham Theatre Workshop.
Jean Stretton, Oldham Council Leader, said: “This is a real achievement for Oldham – we are absolutely delighted to have completed this funding package with our partners.
“We’re extremely proud of our history and heritage and it is vital that is a key part of the regeneration of Oldham so we can protect it for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
“The HLF have been crucial players in this project and have offered not just invaluable funding but expert advice and guidance. Their input has been essential and they have truly shared our vision for this scheme.
“And what can I say about Sir Norman Stoller’s contribution? We are starting to run out of superlatives to describe his generosity.
“We are very proud of him and honoured that he continues to put his faith in this town. He remains an unmatched source of inspiration. He isn’t just a knight – he is our knight in shining armour.”
Planning consent for the Heritage Centre and Coliseum Theatre schemes was granted in March 2015, followed by detailed discussions about funding, planning and phasing options.
The gift from Sir Norman Stoller’s charitable trust is the latest in a long line of significant donations to Oldham projects including the Mahdlo Youth Zone, the Oldham Enterprise Fund and the creation of a Maggie’s cancer support centre.
Sir Norman Stoller said: “The Stoller Charitable Trust takes great pride in investing in the Borough of Oldham when we see schemes that can deliver genuine and tangible benefits to its residents.
“We see our relationship with Oldham very much as a long-term partnership in which we endeavour to work together to improve the lives of all residents – and especially our young people.
“Our children are the future and that is why we continue to invest together in the Mahdlo Youth Zone.
“It is for the same reason that The Stoller Charitable Trust has agreed to support the Oldham Arts and Heritage Centre project, which will bring an iconic building back into use and offer the opportunity to show our pride in our history, culture and unique heritage.
“I believe Oldham has a great future, particularly if we plan and work hard to attract newcomers who want to share in the benefits of being a part of the new Northern Powerhouse of Greater Manchester.”