Words by Gary Carter
Pictures by Gemma Carter
THE TIMES they are a changing on Uppermill High Street as several businesses are either up for sale, have closed or have changed names.
Walking up from the museum, Pieces of Paradise is boarded up, Betty’s Fish and Chip Shop is up for sale, the Vintage Cupcake Kitchen is reducing in size meaning the café part will go, and the lease of The Old Library Cafe is up for sale.
The building that houses Ella and Coco is to let, Bags of Choice has closed, Copyright has turned into Sefton’s accountants, and Java is now called Abaco.
Then there is the saga concerning the old Spar shop, which was thought to be being turned into an Italian restaurant, while there seem to be no plans in the pipeline for the former NatWest bank, which remains empty.
Just off the High Street, the General Store has been and gone – but is the current spate of changes in the business landscape a sign of a bigger problem?
The Independent looked into the issue and found things remain rosier than the raft of ‘for sale’ or ‘to let’ signs.
Saddleworth Parish councillor Graham Sheldon, who was sub-postmaster in Uppermill for 17 years until he retired a few years ago, insists changes are nothing new.
He said: “The change in businesses has occurred many times during my time in Uppermill and I would suggest this is quite normal.”
Cllr Sheldon’s colleague, Pam Byrne, is also not worrying about a bigger problem emerging.
The former café owner said: “The changes may be a combination of things – people needing larger premises, business owners having families, people retiring and commercial decisions. People have children and their lifestyle changes.
“But remember, there are many more businesses than what you see on the High Street. Saddleworth and Uppermill is home to many, many micro-businesses too and they are doing well.
“I’m not worried at all, it’s just turnover and it happens.
“The closures are probably down to a variety of different reasons, not just one. I always say, ‘When you’re starting a business, know your target market’.
“Remember what was Copyright was originally part of the Taylor and Clifton printing business and its moved back there, so it’s still there.
“People come from miles around to use the wedding businesses and the Frostery. There are also four different estate agents, so any unit that does become empty is likely to be soon taken on. Yes, some are changing but for different reasons.
“It’s not doom and gloom at all, Uppermill is a success story. Even though a couple are changing, it’s a positive, not a negative.”
But what can be done to help business in Uppermill? One much-mentioned issue is the amount of car parking which often sees council run car parks full from early morning.
Cllr Sheldon has a number of ideas, explaining: “I’ve suggested adding spaces at St Chad’s from the children’s playground to the now disused toilet block.
“This with a one-way system would create another 20 spaces and avoid the awkward exit on to High Street we currently see.
“Also the piece of land from the Spiritualist Church car park towards the viaduct could be tidied and used.”
He also believes Oldham Borough Council can help out, along with police and current licensees.
Cllr Sheldon said: “I would like to see the borough helping out any struggling business as most people enjoy the variety of shops.
“The local police together with licensees are making sure the night scene continues in a safe and enjoyable way.
“The problem with taxis parking and double parking on High Street needs to be addressed and the Museum car park could be transformed into taxi parking.”