Historic Oldham bank building to become co-working hub, arts space and cafe

How the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham councilHow the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham council
How the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham council | How the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham council
The Grade-Two listed building was designed by legendary architect Alfred Waterhouse, the master of the Victorian Gothic revival style who is best known for designing Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum.

Plans to return Oldham’s iconic 134-year-old Prudential Building  to its ‘former splendour’ have been supported unanimously by councillors.

The Victorian building on Union Street was compulsory purchased by the local authority after it agreed last March to bring it back into use as part of the Future High Street Fund programme. At a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday night, councillors agreed proposals to repair both the inside and outside of ‘The Pru’ and transform it into a ’21st century incubator facility’ for businesses, focusing on the creative, digital, and media sectors.

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“It’s a fantastic opportunity to bring the building back into active use,” planning officer Martyn Leigh told the meeting. The building will be refurbished to create private and open co-working spaces, an event space, a café, and a lounge.

The Grade-Two listed building was designed by legendary architect Alfred Waterhouse, the master of the Victorian Gothic revival style who is best known for designing Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum.

But after more than a decade of standing empty, in 2020 the town centre building next to the Oldham Central Metrolink stop was placed on the Victorian Society’s list of most endangered buildings.

Mr Leigh said: “It is in a prominent location within the town centre’s conservation area. It is a Grade-Two listed building. It has been in a vacant and poor state of condition for some time, largely due to water ingress a lot of the interior fabric and historic fabric has been either lost or damaged over a sustained period of time.”

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How the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham councilHow the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham council
How the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham council | How the Prudential Building in Oldham town centre would look following the plans to transform it into a co-working, office and event space. Photo: Oldham council

He added the building had been formerly used in an ‘office type’ class. “The proposals put forward now are to bring the building back into active use and to facilitate that does require extensive works to restore the building but also to protect some of the historic fabric that’s remaining,” Mr Leigh added.

“The benefits of bringing a building of this type back into use is that it safeguards its future as well.”

There had been no objections from residents or consultees, and Historic England is supportive of the proposals, he told members.

The changes proposed for the building amount to ‘less than substantial harm’, councillors heard.

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Council officers had said that there was evidence of break-ins and drug use in the building and alleyway behind it, with incidents of falling roof slates and glass into the street. This had led to formal notices being served to secure the property, and notices under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Under the plans for the future of the building it is aimed to create 71 new businesses and more than 156 jobs over a ten year period, as well as helping emerging businesses grow.

This would turn the 19th century building into a ‘vibrant co working and modern workplace that will attract young and upcoming tech businesses’, documents state.

The former banking hall, described by Buttress Architects Ltd as the ‘most significiant’ interior, decorated with ornate glazed tiling and colonnades, would become a ‘breakout’ social and café area.

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A new roof is proposed to enclose the central atrium, with dormer windows installed to maximise space. The council wants it to kick-start more than £2m of growth in the borough in the creative and digital sectors. The committee granted both planning permission and listed building consent for the works.

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