OLDHAM COUNCIL has welcomed Historic England’s agreement to place the Oldham Town Centre Conservation Area on its latest annual “at risk” register.
The move will give the local authority new access to specialist advice, expert help and funding sources in its bid to revive the fortunes of a series of important local structures.
Last month the council approved a new four-phase programme setting out robust plans to deliver a Heritage Centre and Coliseum Theatre over a ten year period.
This widened the original project remit to look at how other heritage assets, such as the Lyceum, Local Studies and old Museum buildings, can be saved and find viable future uses.
Following detailed assessments by officers, the need to bring empty buildings back into use was identified within the conservation area.
Prominent buildings with listed status on Union Street were assessed with both Oldham Council and Historic England recognising the need for action, starting with the inclusion of the area on the Heritage at Risk register.
A major regeneration programme is currently underway in Oldham town centre which seeks to support businesses and breathe new life into existing heritage assets.
Historic England champions historic environments and their “at risk” survey acknowledges the current position and will assist in securing advice and funds for development proposals.
Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said: “We approached Historic England to seek their support in highlighting the condition of the town’s important heritage buildings.
“We’ve long said our heritage must be the foundation of our regeneration programme and getting this area added to the “at risk” register is about doing everything we can to protect and preserve those assets.”
He added: “Historic England has been supportive of our efforts throughout this process and their assistance will be invaluable.
“They understand the challenges facing historic buildings better than anyone and have an excellent track record of helping proactive partners to tackle them.
“This allows us to start accessing potential new specialist advice and gives us the status required for certain funding sources which were otherwise likely be denied to us.
“The gradual withdrawal from several important buildings has left them in a state of disrepair. If we don’t move to secure their future, they simply won’t have one.
“Buildings like the Lyceum, Masonic Hall and The Prudential building and others are hugely important.
“These fine structures are snapshots in the timeline of our history and it is our responsibility to reverse their decline, find new uses and ensure they are not lost to future generations.”
Historic England is given targets by the Government to help remove areas from the register and dedicates time and resources to achieve this.
HE have grant-aided and assisted many other areas wishing to develop Heritage Lottery Fund schemes or other heritage-led regeneration programmes and investments.
Darren Ratcliffe, Historic Places Adviser at Historic England, said: “Oldham town centre joins 24 other conservation areas at risk across Greater Manchester, most falling within town centres impacted in recent years by retail and market changes occurring within high streets.
“At the heart of Oldham lies a rich architectural heritage and the people have recently made great strides to tackle buildings at risk in their town.
“Enterprising projects such as the restoration the Old Town Hall and the grade II* George St Chapel by Age UK, demonstrate how historic buildings can be adapted to provide cultural, community, environmental and economic benefits as part of a coherent plan to re-energise town centres.”
See Historic England’s annual “at risk” register for 2015 at http://www.historicengland.org.uk