Oldham Council’s vision of regenerating the Old Town Hall has moved a step closer. The Local Authority has appointed BDP’s Manchester studio to design a scheme to bring the historic Grade II listed building back into use.
BDP, the UK’s largest inter-disciplinary design practice, was chosen because they have extensive experience in the conservation of historic buildings and bringing them back into use as new enterprises.
The refurbishment of the landmark building, which was built in three phases between 1850 and 1917, has been identified as a priority project by Oldham Council. Essential work to stop further decay and weather damage to the site has already been carried out.
Working with the Council, BDP is investigating a range of options for the building and aims to conserve as much of its historic fabric as possible. BDP will progress the plans to a stage where planning and listed building consent applications can be submitted, which is expected to be later this year.
Councillor Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “The Old Town Hall is one of our best known buildings but its condition means it is no longer the source of civic pride that it clearly should be. We’ve always said there will be no quick fix and, because of the building’s current condition, no developer would be prepared to work with us because it is not a viable proposition. By bringing BDP on board we will produce a workable scheme that would enable either the Council or a developer to take on the building wholesale, or enter into a joint venture with us, safe in the knowledge of what they were taking on.”
“Once this work is complete there will be no more obstacles in the way and this will pave the way for proposals which could see the site turned into a cinema or other leisure-based facility. It won’t happen overnight but our vision here is to deliver a family leisure destination, something similar to the atmosphere of Printworks in Manchester. The old Town Hall is important to the public. It should be a source of civic pride, not a symbol of neglect, and it is vitally important that we make progress on this.”
BDP architect director, Alan Davies, said: “Oldham’s Old Town Hall represents an important part of the town’s heritage, but because of its layout and historical features it is a difficult building to adapt. For many years it has defied efforts to bring it back into use and it has fallen into disrepair. We look forward to sharing our insight and knowledge, and aim to see the conservation and re-use of this historical landmark.”
Oldham Council officers moved out of the town hall for the Civic Centre in 1978, although small rooms were used by a variety of groups and the court room was used as a satellite Crown Court until 1995.