The plan that could revive a dying town centre

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

Oldham council officially launched its move into the Spindles centre on Thursday (February 29). 

The climax of a four-year and £65m project, a thousand employees are due to move into the newly renovated offices in the top floor of the shopping centre. 

The move is part of a regeneration plan for Oldham town centre that aims to increase footfall on the high streets and create local housing. 

Council leader Arooj Shah was present at an opening ceremony to mark the “symbolic and monumental milestone”. 

Cllr Shah said: “People want to see their town centre thrive - they want the hustle and bustle. 

“For the young girl I was who loved Oldham’s busy town centre, I’m so proud to be a part of a movement that brings that back.” 

Almost all of the first floor of the shopping centre has been converted into office space for council departments along with partners such as social care providers Miocare and the Northern Care Alliance. 

It also features a ‘hub space’ due to open in six weeks where start-ups and freelancers will be able to rent a desk. 

Council officer Chris Lewis said: “Oldham is renowned for its successful start up businesses so it’s only right that we’d provide this space for them”. 

By combining office and retail space, the council hopes people will feel more encouraged to pop into shops on their way home or in their lunch break. 

The opening ceremony brought together council officers and local traders, who manage the shops in the shopping centre’s ground floor.

They were excited about the new development after spending the last three years coping with disruption from the building work. 

“One day I was working and suddenly someone drilled straight through my ceiling,” one store manager recounted. 

Rachel O’Donnell, manager of outdoor shop Trespass, said she was “very hopeful” the payoff of the renovations would be worth the bother.

“Not everyone’s accepting of change but you’ve got to move with the times. 

“Spindles has had the facelift that it needed.

"It looks fresh. I do hope it means more people will come to visit and footfall increases.” 

While the traders were generally optimistic, some expressed caveats.

Limited and expensive parking remains a concern for attracting people to the town centre.

And some wanted to see a bigger variety of shops on offer in the surrounding areas. 

Angela Doodie, the store manager at B&M, said: “I used to come here a lot to do my shopping - it was so vibrant and there was so much choice.

"It would be lovely to see it like that again.”

The move also frees up the old Civic Centre offices, a brutalistic 70s tower beset with expensive maintenance issues.

Future plans would see the centre demolished to make room for central housing. 

Around 50 percent of council offices have made the transition, with the rest due to join by the end of March.

In six weeks, the council will also open its customer service point in the Spindles centre. 

The next phase of the regeneration project will see the completion of the new Tommyfield Market space attached to the shopping centre.

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