Labour Oldham have submitted plans to try and secure a £41 million share of the government’s towns fund for projects that will have little if any benefit to the vast majority of Oldham residents living in the eternally excluded wards that are all but exempt from so called regeneration spending unless it means more housing or industrial development on green land.
We have Northern Roots Oldham’s planned urban farm and eco centre adjacent to Oldham’s largest park, Alexandra Park, which already receives more funding than every other park in Oldham combined. Northern Roots is another exercise in socialist tokenism and a symbol of Labour Oldham’s diversionary green agenda which will sit in an area bordered by some of Oldham’s least sustainable communities with the highest population densities, highest fertility rates, highest immigration rates, highest worklessness rates and the highest reliance on social security benefits.
Second in the council’s list of schemes is money to explore the possibility of using heat from flooded mines to heat town centre homes and businesses, this is actually a scheme suggested by the Lib Dem’s several years ago which Labour Oldham are trying to market as their own. In reality Oldham has subsidised cheap heating in Oldham town centre for decades with the St Mary’s district heating scheme. In 2015 Labour Oldham agreed the replacement of the ageing heating system with a new “green” biomass boiler and replacement of the pipe network, unreported by the local press the council didn’t in fact power the biomass boiler with waste organic material but with traditional gas. Another exercise in subsidising the residential areas that contribute the least and cost the public purse the most.
Third on the list of schemes is the relocation of the indoor market into the Spindles shopping centre this scheme is little more than a land grab for housing development that will see the current market demolished and new homes built in Oldham’s no1 MSOA for housing benefit claims which already has 50% more claimants than any other area. Oldham Council ludicrously pointed out that the current market is isolated from the main shopping area when it’s in fact about a 90 second walk from the main Spindles shopping centre to the market. Despite the fact Alexandra Park is on the doorstep of the town centre the new housing will border a new park when other parks across the borough have had their funding slashed, green flag status removed and regeneration budgets deferred for up to a decade. The council also plans to develop office space within the Spindles shopping centre at a time when the model for office work has shifted to working from home claiming it will increase footfall when in reality it will be the council and perhaps some partners who will relocate staff from current town centre buildings so footfall would remain the same. This again is another exercise in land grabs for housing which will undoubtedly happen on the civic centre and old magistrates court sites.
Another scheme on the council’s list is a flexible performance space to be built on Union Street which in actuality is only required because of Oldham Councils failed plans to build a new Coliseum theatre on Union Street a debacle that in recent years wasted £3.2 million of public money before being abandoned. In recent years the grant funded Coliseum has become little more than a socialist performance arm of the Council with a barrage of left wing plays clearly linked with Labour Oldham’s agenda even politicising the Christmas pantomime with antigovernment rhetoric.
This is another unimaginative scheme and of no benefit to those not living in the town centre, completely false claims of green sustainability and a shrinking retail and entertainment offer are the direct result of the council’s failure to react to economic change. The town centre is to be sacrificed on the alter of population increase and the council’s dependence on increasing council tax income.