Liberal Democrat Leader’s welcome for promise of a town centre powered by Oldham’s industrial past

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has welcomed news that Oldham Council’s Towns Fund application for £41 million includes a commitment to powering the town centre with geothermal heat from former coal mines.

In October 2014, Councillor Sykes first asked the then Council Leader if officers could investigate this possibility and six years on it appears, they are doing so.

Councillor Sykes said:  “Anyone who has gone into Gallery Oldham and looked at Squire Knott’s photographic panorama of our historic town centre will have seen that there are coal mines scattered amongst the buildings.  In nineteenth- century Oldham, coal was the lifeblood of our textile and engineering industries, and many people lived and worked cheek-by-jowl with a pit.”

Howard Sykes, looking out across Shaw

Oldham’s mills and foundries required machinery powered by coal.  There are hundreds of tunnels bored deep beneath the Borough’s surface which store latent and unused geothermal heat, which can be used to warm businesses and homes.

Councillor Sykes added:  “These now abandoned mines are still bursting with untapped renewable energy potential.  This could serve to heat the businesses and new homes in the town centre forever, providing widespread benefit for all.”

In October 2014, Councillor Sykes raised the possibility that Oldham Council harness this ‘free energy’ with the Leader of the Council, using case studies from Scotland and the Midlands.  At that time, Stoke-On-Trent Council received government finance to invest in this previously unthought of resource.  In 2016 his suggestion was then considered by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee which supported the suggestion.

The Liberal Democrats are convinced that geothermal heat can make a major contribution to making Britain carbon neutral by 2050.  The party first adopted the policy as part of their 2015 Election Manifesto.  

Councillor Sykes added:  “The Liberal Democrats have a clear vision for cleaner, greener towns and cities.  I would be delighted if we could lead the way in using geothermal energy to power Oldham’s town centre to help save our environment.”

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