First designs for multi-million pound eco centre unveiled

Friday, January 10th, 2020 2:34pm

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

The first designs for a 'unique' multi-million-pound new environmental centre – part of plans to make Oldham the 'Eden of the north' – have been unveiled.

Bosses are preparing to seek planning consent for proposals for the Alexandra Park Eco Centre, which would replace the council’s ageing depot on the corner of the park by Kings Road.

The new building would further the town hall’s ambitions to make Oldham the greenest borough in Greater Manchester.

New artist impressions have now given a first look at the modern design for the centre, which is planned to use biomass heating and solar panels to become carbon neutral.

Mayor Andy Burnham paid a visit to the depot, and described it as a ‘vital part’ of plans to tackle climate change in Greater Manchester.

He said the eco centre would form part of the five-year plan to make the region carbon neutral by 2038, and had wide-ranging benefits.

“A vital part of this will be looking at how we can regenerate urban green spaces and put them at the heart of our communities – becoming viable, sustainable resources that bring people together and enhance our quality of life,” Mr Burnham added.

“Northern Roots has the potential to transform the way we think about urban green space, not only in Greater Manchester but on a national scale.”

A planning application for the eco centre will be submitted next week, and if approved building work could begin later this year.

It forms part of a wider strategic plan for 160 acres of green space around Snipe Clough, the flagship ‘Northern Roots’ project.

The pioneering plan is to transform the site, which is a mixture of waste ground and woodland, into the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park.

The project had been nicknamed the ‘Eden of the north’ in the early stages for the national profile it could give Oldham.

Last year it was revealed that glamping, a petting zoo, microbrewery, sports and forest zones were all being mooted for the site.

The council has so far committed to invest around £700,000 in Northern Roots across two years.

But chiefs estimate the total project will cost around £25 million, and will need outside investment.

The new eco centre would 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.

Council leader Sean Fielding said they needed to have the right infrastructure to build an ‘inclusive economy’ in the borough.

“These proposals for the new centre are unique and ambitious in terms of their scale, use of technology and environmental impact,” he added.

“We’d be building a new purpose-built facility that would meet the needs of our services and continue to provide employment and enhanced training opportunities.

“We’re also looking for the centre to have low running costs, which is another big bonus.”

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.

Councillor Abdul Jabbar, cabinet member for finance and corporate services said: “The new centre would support Northern Roots and put Oldham on the map as a pioneer of new social, environmental and economic ways of working.

“It will provide a model that other areas can adopt to preserve and enhance their green infrastructure.”

Two drop-in sessions are being held in the conservatory at Alexandra Park on Thursday, January 16 so residents can get more information about the plans.

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