The full plan to build a new theatre space in Oldham after the loss of the Coliseum has been submitted, which reveals demolishing and refurbishing some town centre buildings.

The Oldham Coliseum Theatre company is currently operating without a physical home after the 136-year-old Fairbottom Street theatre closed for the final time in April.

While the former Coliseum building has been "gutted" of all its assets, fixtures and fittings, Oldham Council received the keys to the empty building earlier this month but stated there are "no plans for the site at this stage".

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Now, however, official plans are in motion for a new £24m development in Oldham's Cultural Quarter to step in its place, including an auditorium, offices, community and education space as well as a cafe and bar, which will form the Coliseum's new home in 2026.

Documents published on Monday (August 21) outline there will be some hefty construction work over on Union Street, Greaves Street and Ashworth Street to make way for the development, which includes the creation of the new theatre building, the conversion and refurbishment of some grade II listed buildings and the demolition of a former museum building.

More than 100 documents have been published with Paul Butler Associates outlining the scale of the development on behalf of Oldham Council.

The plans show the site is occupied by three separate buildings - a former post office, which is being used as a study and archive centre, a former museum and Friends' meeting house, both are being used by Oldham Theatre Workshop and Peshkar Productions community theatre company.

Careful consideration will be given to these buildings as the post office is grade II listed and the museum is listed by "association".

Although the Friends' meeting house is not listed, it is "a building of architectural merit dating from the late 19th century".

Despite this, the former museum will need to be demolished to make way for the 300+ seat theatre auditorium, a control room, tech gallery, wardrobe space, prop storage and front of house facilities such as a foyer for ticket sales and a cafe-bar.

Meanwhile, the post office building will be retained and refurbished to make way for education and community space as well as offices for Oldham Coliseum Limited and the Friends' Meeting House will be converted into a 120-seat studio theatre with a control room, dressing room and back of stage areas.

It is stated the new building will be "flexible" to cater to a range of performance types simultaneously to maximise revenue, such as in-house and touring productions, one-off performances and concerts, open-mic nights, comedy stand-up nights, venue hire for events like weddings and smaller performances in the studio for more intimate shows.

Even the cafe and bar will have "informal platform performance" areas while the community and education space can be used by local community groups to host meetings or teach sessions.

When it came to the design and appearance of the space, the planning statement outlines a "clean and contemporary building" made of precast concrete and stone in varying tones.

This includes red and buff to reflect the "warm palette" of the surrounding historic buildings while being "uncomplicated and sleek" so as not to compete or distract from the architecture of the grade II buildings flanking it on either side.

The facade also involves pleated stonework which the application states is to symbolise the use of the building with reference to the proscenium curtain. 

All entrances will be fully accessible and while there is no car parking provision in the scheme, a separate transport statement finds there is sufficient car parking in the town centre and cycling storage on adjacent Ashworth Street.

In addition to the new theatre, Oldham Council is also proposing to improve the central gardens and the public highway by the site.

Paul Butlers Associates also discussed the former Fairbottom Street theatre, citing the "condition of the building", anti-social behaviour and the loss of Arts Council England funding in the lead-up to its closure.

The application further stated: "The theatre's facilities were outdated and ill-equipped to serve a modern cultural venue of this type, both in terms of facilities for staff and performers, as well as for visitors."

As such, it is hoped the new provision will "re-invigorate" the Coliseum's operation with a sustainable business model, boosted by the "diversification" of activity in the building.

It is estimated the development will provide 38.8 full-time jobs and while opening times are still subject to review, it is anticipated the theatre will operate from 9am to 11.30pm every day.

Feedback from an 18-month public consultation was also published in the documents.

A report, prepared by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios on behalf of the council, revealed the Oldham Coliseum company, including its new board of trustees, gave feedback and direction on the design of the new space as well as 20 people with "intimate knowledge" of the Coliseum.

It was established here that the red colour of the auditorium balcony and seats was a "key ingredient" to embody the spirit of the former Coliseum into its new home, but many feared the capacity of the new theatre, particularly for its popular Christmas pantomime, is not enough.

Residents also echoed these concerns in a week-long public consultation but the application stressed in response that the 300 to 350-seat auditorium plus the 120-seat studio is fit for a thriving theatre with a range of income streams, and is similar in capacity to other venues across the country.

Others cited a lack of technical space, such as wing space, storage for scenery, rehearsal space, wardrobe and changing space, and a fly tower for the Christmas pantomime.

Again, it was raised that several other similar-sized venues do not have a fly tower and instead highlighted how the new space will have a "range of high-quality productions" all year round.

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