New community space to come at cost of 130-year-old pub

Reporter: Charlotte Hall, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 22 February 2024

A dingy alleyway in Oldham will soon be transformed into a ‘vibrant’ city-centre garden - but comes at the cost of a 130-year-old pub.

Oldham council approved the plans to demolish Snipe Inn on Henshaw Street to make way for a “landscaped public realm” at a planning meeting last night (Wednesday). 

The plans submitted by the council will see the path connecting Oldham Bus interchange to the Tommyfield Market area broadened out and fitted with street lamps and plants.

In honour of the pub, the space will be named ‘Snipe garden’ and feature designs inspired by the snipe bird. 

The new two-hectare park will become “a safe and attractive approach to and from the town centre”, according to proposal plans.

It is a part of the council’s “Creating a Better Place” scheme, which is seeking to regenerate Oldham town centre. 

A planning officer recommended the plan for approval and said: “The area is a well used accessway for people coming out of the station.

"Unfortunately, once they get further in, they are confronted with a narrow passageway which is often waterlogged. 

“This will link through to the improved developments in town such as the Linear Park (on the high street) and will make it much more amenable for people to get through to the centre.

"There are clearly improvements to public safety from the removal of the narrow passageway and to the general attractiveness of the area.” 

Once completed, the council want to invite local artists to help decorate the new space.

The plans received no objections and were greeted enthusiastically by councillors.

But not everyone has been as excited by the project, with online communities mourning the loss of the Snipe Inn pub. 

The council bought the pub from Greene King brewing company in November 2022.

Just a few weeks later, pub landlord Keith Israel announced the pub would have to close down and all staff were made redundant. 

The site, which has been a part of the highstreet since the mid 19th century, has sat vacant since then.

A visit by surveyors found the structure to be in a slightly ‘deteriorated’ but salvageable condition. 

The proposal noted: “The demolition of the public house will therefore result in the loss of a community facility that (if the building underwent a costly renovation) could potentially be retained as a viable business. 

“However, this must be weighed alongside the wider community benefits.” 

Another sore point is the iconic ‘Light Squeeze’ artwork - a rubber ball wrenched into the top of the narrow alleyway that has “mesmerised the kids in Oldham for years”, according to councillor Elaine Taylor who raised the issue in the meeting. 

The developers have promised that they are looking into a way to relocate the piece. 

“The artwork has fallen into disrepair,” said Alex Short from infrastructure consultancy firm Aecom.

“We need to retrieve that and assess what repairs are required, but we are looking at opportunities across the town centre to rehome it.”

Do you have a story for us? Want to tell us about something going on in and around Oldham? Let us know by emailing , calling our Oldham-based newsroom on 0161 633 2121 , tweeting us @oldhamchronicle or messaging us through our Facebook page. All contact will be treated in confidence.