Proposals to build a new 5.7 acre park in the centre of Oldham have not been popular with shoppers in the town centre.
As part of “The Big Oldham Conversation”, Oldham Council have outlined their ambitions for the centre of the town, laying out several projects they hope will positively impact the borough.
With plans to move Oldham Coliseum to a redeveloped Old Post Office and former Quaker Meeting House, a new event space and archive centre in Spindles, and hopes to bring the Old Library back into use, there’s plenty to think about with the new ideas.
However, two of the most commonly discussed, and most controversial, of these plans involve the relocation of Tommyfield Market into the former TJ Hughes unit of Spindles, and the redevelopment of the existing market hall.
Oldham Council have now confirmed they plan to use the Tommyfield site and the former Oldham Sports Centre on Lord Street to build several new homes and a brand new 5.7 acre park.
With the new plans for Oldham town centre out for consultation, the Manchester Evening News headed down to the market to see what shoppers thought of the proposals.
We first spoke to 89-year-old Brenda Pickett and 86-year-old Elizabeth Sharpe, who have been coming to the market for years, and are open to the plans as long as they can help the trader’s thrive.
Brenda said: “We used to like the market but what we know is gone.
Sign up for Oldham news updates direct to your inbox
Keep up to date with the top stories on life in and around Oldham with the new free email newsletter from MyOldham.
The MyOldham newsletter will go out weekly with a selection of our most popular articles, including the latest on the coronavirus pandemic and how Oldham is dealing with lockdown.
Follow this link and select My Oldham News. We have many other newsletters that may interest you as well.
“Whether it’ll be better in Spindles, I don’t know.
“It’ll be a big change – we lived through the fire but nothing inside is like how it used to be.”
Elizabeth added: “We’ve been coming here for years, it was a great market back in the good old days.
“You used to get buses lining up like you do over at Bury Market now.
“It’s quite sad, it’s a pity to think it might all be gone.
“If they make it better though, then it might be ok.”
Other shoppers weren’t so keen on the plans, with several saying the decline of Oldham’s town centre put them off from shopping there unless they needed to.
Brenda Collins, 55, said: “I couldn’t care less what they do with it, they could knock it all down and start again for all I care.
“It’s all absolutely rubbish anyway, there’s no shops.
“Maybe if they get some shops in here it’ll be worth coming to but at the moment I try to stay away – there’s nothing here for me.”
But even those that do use the town centre aren’t completely convinced.
For some, the idea of moving the market could be stomached – if necessary – if it was replaced with the right thing.
Several people have raised safety concerns over a park in the centre of town, as they believe combining two areas that typically see higher-than-average levels of anti-social behaviour could lead to trouble on the streets.
Others feel like the addition of a new park in such close proximity to the existing Alexandra Park is redundant.
Marian Derbyshire, 70, wasn’t convinced that any of the proposals should go ahead.
She said: “It’s rather a large park in the middle of the town.
“To be honest, the market should stay where it is, I’ve just walked through to the post office and that’s been dreadful, it had very long queues and nowhere to sit down – it’s very hard on my back to shop in such a cramped environment and it won’t get any easier when stalls move in.
“Our town centre’s gone a bit downhill unfortunately too.
“I get a bit nervy and on edge when I’m here because you don’t know who’s around, and a park won’t help that.”
Several people we spoke to liked the history of Tommyfield Market, which has had a market hall on site for over a century.
Tommyfield Market was built in the early 1990s, after the original Victoria Market hall, built in 1908, burnt down in 1974, being replaced by a temporary market building until the current hall was finished.
But now, that history could be lost for good.
Gavin, 34, thinks it would be a shame to let go of that heritage.
He said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea in all honesty, we used to have the old Victoria Market hall but it burnt down to the ground.
“I reckon the way it is at the moment should be left, I don’t see the point of moving it.
“I don’t think there’s enough room, I know there’s a couple of vacant shops but there’s quite a lot of stalls which is going to make it cramped.
“I think shutting the market is just the wrong decision.”
Mark Mancinni agreed, before explaining that he thinks the council are trying to persuade people their idea will be the best for the borough.
He said: “It seems to me like they’re making an idea so people can pay rent for something they’ve probably made a bit of a mistake on.
“I think they’re pushing ‘this will be great all in one place’, but what they need to do is come up with another idea and improve the area around Tommyfield Market to make it more appealing.
“They need to promote it a little bit more, think up more ideas instead of sticking with what they’ve got.
“They’re almost brainwashing us to think that this is going to be great, knocking down and starting again.
“It’s an important site for the Oldham people and it would be a great shame to get rid of it.
“I know we’ve got to move on with the times but why can’t we move on with what we’ve got?”
Replacing the historic site is something that has garnered a lot of opposition from locals since it was first suggested.
Many people have opposed the idea since it first emerged, preferring to hold on to the current market and improve what’s already there.
Carl Unsworth, 50, said: “It’s ridiculous, what do we need a bloody big park for?
“There’s nothing wrong with this market, it’s still fairly new compared to the old one.
“What’s the point of knocking it all down again when we’ve got a park just down the road too?
Visit The Big Oldham Conversation to have your say on the proposals and to see them in more detail.