Announced in 2014 by serial regeneration scheme failure Jim McMahon the “Prince’s Gate” development at mumps was described as “a ‘gamechanger’ regeneration scheme aiming to transform the town centre’s eastern gateway with new shops, quality homes and jobs. Central to it is a new retail development which would deliver around 150,000 sq ft of new space in a glazed building – including a 51,000 sq ft M&S food and clothing store” It was Chronic-Oldham that broke the hidden facts on this story which involved Oldham Council not only building M&S bespoke premises and allowing them a six month rent free period but also giving them £9 million to fit out their new store. Also hidden away in official documents never meant to be seen by the public was a report stating that house building at mumps was not commercially viable for private developers. In an act of sheer incompetence none of the business specialists and economic strategists at Oldham Council dotted their I’s or crossed their T’s and M&S pulled out of the scheme in 2016 after hundreds of thousands if not several million had already been spent. Now I always considered mumps the wrong place for M&S to open in Oldham but what they would have brought to the town centre was something not offered by the independent shops and as such they would have generated more footfall and not leeched others customers and business.
After M&S pulled out in 2016 we had two and a half years of promises from Oldham Council’s leaders about an always imminent but never materialising announcement of a new anchor tenant which finally came in 2019 with the news that the new anchor would be budget supermarket Lidl. Grasping at these none “Gamechanging” straws Oldham Council said “the announcement is a ‘positive signal’ that companies from the private sector are willing to invest in the town, and would create new jobs as well as ‘significant’ cash from the land sale.” As is always the case there is never any mention of costs incurred such as £2.5 million to move the Metrolink stop and car park from one side of the road to the other or the infrastructure planning and works, the cost of land and property purchases, architectural designs, surveys, market research all of which was scrapped and had to be recommissioned for Prince’s Gate mark 2 and 3. So here’s what your “Gamechanger” has morphed into, the land has been sold and one budget supermarket is replacing M&S and an Aldi which was scheduled to open on the old RSPCA site, a budget hotel and thousands of new homes will be available in Oldham’s no1 working age benefit dependent ward. Many of Oldham’s independent SME businesses have been waiting for five years to benefit from Oldham Council’s promised passing footfall increase visiting M&S. Those operating in the budget food sector will now potentially lose custom unable to match prices with Prince’s Gates budget supermarket giant and higher end furniture and clothing stores are unlikely to get passing trade on its way to a budget superstore.