Climate conscious 'eco centre' in Oldham approved

A new climate-conscious 'eco centre' will replace a dilapidated council depot after councillors unanimously backed the plans. 

The modem-designed environmental centre will be built in place of the ageing depot in the Grade Two listed Alexandra Park in Oldham town centre.

The maintenance depot, on the corner of the park by Kings Road, comprises of a car park, storage shed, gardeners lodge and other infrastructure.

The replacement will consist of a new glass house, a two-storey office building, as well as remodelling and an extension of the existing portal shed.

It is planned to use biomass heating and solar panels to become carbon neutral, furthering the town hall’s ambitions to make Oldham the greenest borough in Greater Manchester.

The eco centre would have capacity to process 600 tons of green waste on the site, which would produce excess energy to be sold back to the grid.

Planning officer Graham Dickman told the planning committee: “This is the first phase of a wider programme to improve the ecological and tourism, and the other aspects of the Alexandra Park area.

“Clearly the buildings themselves will have a much tidier finish, more car parking being provided, including some public car parking on the site.”

The proposed office building would contain a number of meeting rooms, office spaces, a waiting lounge, toilets, changing rooms, kitchens, storage, staff rooms and plant rooms.

The amenity floors would be served by central common areas on the ground floor, and there would also be car parking on the site.

Coun Graham Sheldon queried whether the glasshouse would be ‘vandal proof’, and Mr Dickman confirmed it would be made of ‘toughened glass’.

“It needs clearly to be structurally sound as well as vandal proof,” he said.

The depot redevelopment forms part of the Northern Roots flagship project to create the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park at Snipe Clough, 160 acres of ‘underused’ green space in the heart of Oldham.

Northern Roots would focus on food, jobs, enterprise, bio-diversity, environment and sustainability, leisure and tourism, and health and wellbeing.

A variety of uses, including glamping, a petting zoo, microbrewery, sports and forest zones – and recently re-wilding – have all been mooted for the site.

Recommending they approve the application, Coun Peter Davis said: “I think this proposal fits in with all the developments going with all the Northern Roots and everything, I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

The new eco centre would also offer further training and employment opportunities with Oldham College and other education providers.

It will be a base for enterprises and community projects, providing office space, operational buildings, greenhouses and storage facilities.

Utilising green technology, it is aimed that the centre would be self-sufficient, with biomass generating heat, solar panels providing power and a filtration system to collect natural water to use at the site.

It would also see electric charging points introduced to power the council’s fleet as it moves to switch to electric vehicles.

In his report, case officer Dean Clapworthy wrote: “The aspiration for the proposal in this area to play a greater role in the day to day operations of the and encourage interaction with the public through a range of community initiatives with a focus on mental and physical health.

“The proposed development would deliver a major redevelopment scheme at a previously developed site.”

The new buildings would also ‘enhance’ the appearance of the site, he concluded.

The depot plans were passed unanimously.

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