Bosses are to pull the plug on a long-awaited redevelopment scheme at Oldham Mumps after plans for a new hotel fell through.
The saga of the Prince’s Gate project to regenerate the area around Mumps, which has been in the pipeline for a decade and spanned five council leaders, has encountered yet another setback. In November opposition councillor Howard Sykes complained it has taken longer to deliver the project than ‘it took to put mankind on the moon’.
In 2019 Oldham council entered into a legal agreement with Lidl and an unnamed hotel operator to deliver a mixed-use project on the site. Lidl had confirmed last year it intended to move forward with creating a foodstore, with leaders saying that a planning application was expected during 2022 – but which failed to materialise.
Now the council has confirmed that a decision to terminate the contract has been tabled for the forthcoming cabinet meeting on Monday, January 23. Bosses say that Lidl had planned to deliver both the foodstore and a 68-bed hotel, with an agreement made with a hotel chain to operate it once developed.
But due to the lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic many operators are limiting expansion into new sites. However the legal terms of the contract meant that the entire project had to be delivered in full.
This meant that although chiefs say Lidl was willing to pay the agreed sale price and develop the foodstore, ‘they were unable to commit to a hotel development due to the present volatility in the hotel hospitality sector post Covid-19’.
The authority states it is ‘reviewing options for this location’ and expects to announce ‘shortly’ its preferred uses and re-marketing timescale.
In November 2014, then-leader Jim McMahon announced that Marks and Spencer was coming to Oldham as an ‘anchor tenant’ on the Mumps site and hailed it as a ‘gamechanger’, with an opening planned for 2017.
But in 2016, after the council had invited bids from construction firms for the £60m retail development, the M&S plans were scrapped amidst the retailer reporting plummeting sales and profits. Three years later the contract was drawn up with Lidl to redevelop the site with the promise of both a foodstore and a hotel.
A freedom of information request showed that by 2019, the council had already spent £3.3 million in attempts to rejuvenate the site.
Council leader Amanda Chadderton said: “We are obviously extremely disappointed by the outcome of the situation.
“I want to reassure people that we are continuing to work hard to deliver a positive outcome at the Prince’s Gate site, and we aim to turn our focus now into making this a positive opportunity for the land.
“Unfortunately, global events out of our control have affected the hotel market to such an extent, that they have told us this is no longer viable for them, given how hard they have been hit financially over recent years.”
She added that regeneration plans for the town have moved on ‘significantly’ since 2014, with the Spindles refurb and investment at the former library building on Union Street, and the new Brian Clarke Academy school.
Coun Chadderton said: “We will use the coming months to reflect on how best we can develop Princes Gate to enhance our hugely ambitious plans and improve the town centre further.”