Our vision to make it a more vibrant place – including new homes, employment space, attractions and activity worth an extra £50 million each year to our economy – is about getting a clear strategic plan in place backed by residents, partners and business for our future.
That’s why it was important and heartening to speak at a breakfast event in Manchester last week where potential development partners, plus representatives from the public and private sectors, had all gathered to learn more about our ambitions and discuss the investment opportunities lying ahead in Oldham.
After opening the event I sat on one of two panel discussions with business and regeneration experts who unanimously agreed that Oldham’s Masterplan proposals are “investable”.
Local business stalwarts Dave Benstead, from Diodes, and Craig Dean, from Web Applications UK, spoke about skills issues and the work that is being done to address Science, technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) standards in our schools.
Dave also highlighted schemes like the Oldham Enterprise Fund, saying that the borough’s offer is amongst the best in the North West for businesses starting out – and that “Oldham is easy to sell and to get people to relocate to.”
Also discussed were the exciting things that are happening with the likes of Hack Oldham, Wayra UK and North Planet in creating a great digital offer for start-ups in Oldham.
It was fantastic to hear Craig Dean explaining how most of his staff initially commuted from Manchester but how many subsequently then moved to Oldham as it is now seen as “a place people want to be”.
Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive of Oldham Council, did a great Q&A session inbetween the panel discussions. She used this to explain our co-operative approach and how we’re working with partners to deliver the maximum mutual benefit for everyone and be ambitious for the place.
She also stressed to the 120-strong audience – who each took away hard copies of our new borough prospectus – that “We don’t want Oldham to look like every other town centre: we want something different” and stressed that we are keen to make progress on the Masterplan as quickly as possible.
On the second panel, Neal Biddle from Langtree, who are currently making great strides on the redevelopment plans for Hollinwood Junction, paid our borough perhaps its finest compliment of the day by saying that it is now a “cool” place to be.
These comments were backed by more positive vibes from Muse’s managing director, Matt Crompton, and Christian Gilham from Leach Rohdoes Walker, which you can read from Insider North West’s excellent report of the event here.
Developer interest in the Masterplan – and we will officially launch the search for a partner to progress these plans next year – was high on the day and there were some very positive conversations taking place at the networking event afterwards.
Early in 2018 we will be doing further consultation targeted more specifically at the local business audience, but there’s also still plenty of chances, if you’ve not already done so, to have your say as residents in shaping these plans.
We’ve already held 17 public consultation events all across the borough since September and there are still some more left before the festive season at Uppermill Library, The Civic Centre, Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre, Greenfield and Lees libraries. You can find out dates and times here.
December is always the busiest time of the year for events and there’s a couple of great ones in the next few days which are both at the town centre gem that is Oldham Parish Church.
Firstly we have the annual Christmas Tree Festival which starts this Friday and runs until Sunday, December 17.
This features more than 60 individually decorated trees for you to browse, admire and get some inspiration from and – on weekdays from 12noon – you also get the bonus of being able to listen to the sounds of carols, and you can enjoy a brew at the café, which is open throughout the festival.
Next Monday (December 11), the church is also hosting a very special event at 11am.
This is a Service of Dedication to honour Oldhamer Private Walter Mills VC where family members, long-lost relatives and visitors will join dignitaries and representatives from local community groups and schools at what is certain to be a very moving occasion.
A commemorative flagstone will then be unveiled in the church grounds before an exhibition about Private Mills and the Manchester 10th Battalion Regiment opens for the day in the Egyptian Room in Parliament Square from 12Noon onwards.
Everyone is, of course, invited to come along and pay your respects to this fallen hero.