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Plans for Oldham Coliseum’s pop-up theatre spark fears about disabled parking

Plans to build a temporary ‘bubble-like’ theatre venue for the Oldham Coliseum group could pose problems for disabled parking, residents say.

The issue was raised at an Oldham council planning meeting, where the plans were nonetheless unanimously approved. 

The 167-seater pop-up venue would cover part of the Civic Centre car park, including the only ‘fully accessible’ disabled bays in the city centre – where it is possible for wheelchair users to disembark away from the road. Planning officers noted that there are disabled bays at the nearby Tommyfield Market car park. 

But Councillor Angela Cosgrove, who had recently looked into disabled parking in the area, said: “The disabled bays we’re losing are fully accessible. In a wheelchair, you can take the wheelchair outside the car, whereas the ones in the Tommyfield you can’t – you have to leave someone in the middle of the road. That’s the concern.

“There’s not many [other fully accessible bays] unless you go indoors.” 

The planning officers admitted they had looked only at the overall provision of disabled bays in the town centre – with the venue taking up only two bays out of more than 80. But they had not taken into account how many were fully accessible.

Planning officer Peters acknowledged the problem. He said: “It is a temporary period. We’re acknowledging there is an impact. But we have to balance it with the wider benefits the scheme will bring. 

“Planning is always about that balance. That’s not to say there won’t be harm.” 

The project, which will allow the Oldham Coliseum group to host a number of shows and activities for three months between April and July, was ultimately approved. Councillor Steven Bashforth hoped it would be ‘a resounding success’ for the theatre group, as debates about its future permanent venue continue. 

The group lost its venue on Fairbottom Street in March last year. The council have been working on designs for a new venue with a cafe and better wheelchair access than the old venue. 

But with the Fairbottom venue considered a landmark for the local community, councillors and the Save Oldham Coliseum group have been campaigning for the old site to be restored instead. The council recently stated it would be weighing up both options. 

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