How Oldham’s abandoned mineshafts could change the town’s future

Reporter: Charlotte Hall, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 29 February 2024

A plan to transform abandoned mineshafts under Oldham town’s surface into a source of heating is set to move ahead after the council secured funding from the government this week. 

A £10.2m grant will help kickstart the “truly exciting” £27m project, which will use floodwater as a geothermal heat source to create a  ‘low carbon district heat network’.

The scheme will help bring down heating costs and carbon emissions in the town centre, according to the council. 

Councillors voted to accept the grant at a cabinet meeting on Monday (February 26). 

Coun Abdul Jabbar, the council’s lead on finance, said: “We’re making excellent progress in this area and this extra funding will put us in an absolutely fantastic position to deliver our commitments around climate change.” 

Around £1m of the funding would be used to create a conceptual design of the project and drill test boreholes at a site near Rhodes Bank.

Another £7.7m of capital funding from the government’s Green Heat Network Fund will go towards the overall costs of delivering the project, which will start by heating council-owned buildings like the Old Library and residential sites, such as those owned by First Choice Homes. 

New funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority could see an additional £1.5m flowing into Oldham Council coffers, which councillors aim to use to secure a partner to deliver the project. 

Coun Jabbar said: “I’m told that within GM we’re the first authority to secure this kind of money and to have a plan to secure a delivery partner like we did for our regeneration project.” 

The delivery partner will then be responsible for securing the remaining £20m in project funding from private investment like energy firms.

They intend to deliver the heat network in phases between April 2025 and March 2028. 

Once the network has been created, it will save around 3,700 tonnes of CO2, which is higher than the Council’s entire carbon footprint, according to a council report.

While the project would initially see a select number of town centre buildings heated by the ‘core network’, it is the council’s ambition to create a borough-wide network over a number of years.

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