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Tom Stannard: Oldham will prove that tourism is key to growth

Tom Stannard
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In the industrial strategy, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy announced plans to progress sector deals, featuring flexibilities and additional government support to back business partnerships the sectors driving economic growth.

A number of these sectors deals in life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence and the automotive sector were confirmed in the new plan just before Christmas.

Alongside this, Visit Britain published a submission to the government for a tourism sector deal.

Visit Britain’s analysis showed that:

Tourism is a vital sector, accounting for 9.6% of all employment and 9% of GDP. Tourism is two and a half times bigger than the automotive industry, a bigger exporter than the insurance sector and is growing faster than the digital sector.

It provides 3.1m jobs and £126.9bn.

Tourism created more jobs during the 2008-09 recession than other industries and, in recent years, growth of tourism has played a significant role in rebalancing the UK economy.

All of this matters a great deal at local level. Manchester already features many world-class cultural and tourist destinations that are driving economic growth.

In Oldham we are delivering a new cultural regeneration strategy. Our programme seeks to actively support and co-locate regenerated cultural and tourist attractions in a new destination in the heart of Oldham town centre. The centrepiece of this programme is investment to relocate and rebuild a state-of-the-art home for the long-established Oldham Coliseum Theatre in the town’s burgeoning cultural quarter.

The theatre will be better connected to peer organisations like Oldham Gallery, the Grade-II listed Victorian library building, which houses the current library and will soon be home to our new heritage and arts centre opening in 2019, showcasing Oldham’s past from its time as the cotton spinning capital of the world to the present day.

We aim to convert and develop commercially the Local Studies Centre and old Museum buildings for new uses, and address the future of other heritage buildings on Union Street. The venues’ close proximity to each other will create an enhanced destination for Oldham residents, as well as tourists. The cultural quarter will enable audiences to move between different sites, facilitating cross-art form programming and supporting audiences to try new experiences.

A strategic partnership formed between the council, the Coliseum Theatre, national funders including Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund (contributing £7.1m and £3.3m respectively), plus private supporters, has provided a strong backing for this programme. Work will start this year with completion forecast for 2020.

The cultural and tourism sector has strong roots in Oldham and high growth potential, echoing Visit Britain’s national analysis. In the same spirit in which sector deals are negotiated nationally, we are helping to lead the way demonstrating how local partnerships can support the long-term growth and regeneration of this important sector for Oldham.

Tom Stannard, director of economy and skills, Oldham MBC

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