An 'Olympic' indoor rock climbing centre in the heart of Oldham is set to attract up to '90,000' people to the town.
The centre – which would be the first of its kind in the borough – is to be built on land formerly occupied by the All Nations Church on Egerton Street, which has now been demolished.
Councillors unanimously approved it at a meeting of the borough’s planning committee, welcoming the facility as ‘fantastic’.
It is being built by the Stoller Charitable Trust, which says that the centre is expected to create 40 new jobs and all the profits made by the centre will be reinvested back into the charity.
Oldham businessman Sir Norman Stoller created the Norman Stoller Charitable Trust in the 1980s, and has since given millions to good causes.
He ran Oldham firm Seton Healthcare, which was founded by his father Ivor, inventor of the tubular bandage.
Steve Lowe (pictured below) from the organisation told the meeting (December 18) that the organisation are developing the climbing facility through a not-for-profit subsidiary.
“This will be one of the largest climbing centres in Greater Manchester, combining clip-and-climb, bouldering, lead climbing, soft play and a cafe area,” he said.
“Climbing is the fastest growing healthy activity in the UK with both lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering becoming an Olympic sport in 2020.
“We will have the equivalent of these Olympic walls in Oldham.
“It will be providing a family leisure opportunity for all ages from two to 92.”
He added that it would support the council with their plans to regenerate the town centre, including projects at Prince’s Gate and the heritage centre.
“Our forecast indicate potentially between 80-90,000 visitors each year, which will visit not only the climbing centre but the town centre and will create up to 40 jobs many of which will be for youngsters,” Mr Lowe said.
“With no parking on the site we are encouraging visitors to use public transport or the town centre car parks.
“Most importantly all the profits generated will be made available to the charitable trust to continue to support local community groups and in particular improving the lives of young people in the town and make Oldham a place people will enjoy visiting and retain Sir Norman’s vision that Oldham remains the centre of the universe.”
The new building would cover more than 1,800 sqm next to the Mahdlo Youth Zone, and near to Oldham Coliseum theatre.
Councillor Peter Davis added: “It’s fantastic, it’s bringing more facilities to Oldham, whatever the profits it’s going to make it’s going to be put back into good causes.
“And Mr Stoller has come up trumps again so thank you very much.”
Officers say the principle of the development is ‘acceptable’ and is ‘to be encouraged’.
Planning officer Matthew Taylor said: “The proposed building would be set into the hillside, the drop is seven metres across the site.
“A building like this, obviously an indoor rock climbing centre in principle is acceptable in the town centre because it improves the leisure facilities and the provision within the town centre for the people of Oldham.
“But a building like this the form has to take into account the function heavily, and a climbing centre obviously needs height for the provision of the facility.”
Mr Taylor told members that there had been one objection over traffic and parking concerns, but added: “Given it is located in a sustainable location within the town centre, close to public transport links and major public car parks it isn’t considered to be an issue.”
There would be climbing facilities, retail facilities, a cafe and viewing areas, toilets and changing rooms and staff amenities.
The mezzanine floor would consist of organised spaces for climbing events, with the lower ground floor used solely for climbing.
The design of the futuristic building is inspired by the Peak District and local stone ‘gritstone’ in particular, according to the architects behind it.