Northern Roots Masterplan & Building Designs


The hybrid planning application for Northern Roots was unanimously approved by Oldham Council planning committee in October 2022.

Due to the Northern Roots development being located in the greenbelt, the application had to be referred to the Rt Hon Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for consideration. Having assessed the application, the Secretary of State confirmed that he did not wish to call in the application for further review.

Oldham Council therefore issued approval of planning permission for the scheme, which includes detailed planning permission for the Visitor Centre, Learning Centre, Forestry Hub, Solar array and sports pitches, and outline planning permission for the market garden and swimming pond. Work will start on the Visitor Centre and other elements in late 2023.

The masterplan


Set in the heart of Oldham, ten minutes on foot from Oldham town centre, Northern Roots will create a unique new community asset and visitor destination. It will offer a range of new facilities and activities whilst also creating jobs, training and business opportunities for local people. In addition to protecting and enhancing the habitat, biodiversity and environmental value of the 160-acre site, the project will also support the health and wellbeing of local residents and communities.

The plans, which were informed by extensive consultation with local communities, focus on the northern third of the 160-acre site.  They include a Visitor Centre with a café, shop, exhibition and meeting space, a Learning Centre with classrooms and a bunkroom, a forestry depot, market garden, solar array and an outdoor swimming pond. The Visitor Centre and Learning Centre have been co-designed by JDDK Architects and local communities, and incorporate green rooves, habitat walls, renewable energy sources, and sustainable materials.

Four existing football pitches will be given a much-needed refurbishment, with two of them relocating next to Glodwick Cricket Club. Access improvements to the Northern Roots site will also be made and car parking areas created.

View the key elements of the masterplan and Visitor Centre and Learning Centre designs here: Northern Roots Masterplan & Buildings Update April 2022

A separate application for a new Bike Hub and Trails facility on the Northern Roots site was submitted in April 2022 and unanimously approved by Oldham Council in August 2022. Construction will begin in 2023.


The Visitor Centre


Led by architect Alison Thornton-Sykes of JDDK Architects, consultation included building design workshops with Oldham College, Mahdlo Youth Zone and the wider public in Oldham. The resulting Visitor Centre, which will provide café, exhibition, shop and meeting space, has been designed to blend with the surrounding natural environment and nestles into the woodland edge at the northern end of the site.

“The Visitor Centre has been inspired by the transformation of a caterpillar from the cocoon stage to the emerging butterfly. That transformation journey remains symbolic of the wider transformation of the Northern Roots site, from its industrial past to a green masterplan, with the butterfly roof rising from an elliptical shaped building surrounding a welcoming courtyard.” Alison Thornton-Sykes, architect, JDDK Architects

The layout of the Visitor Centre is based around a central cloister leading into the reception area which flows into the retail space and also provides access to staff areas and a multi faith meditation and prayer space. The cloister continues to provide access to toilets including a changing places facility, multi-use/ learning space and interpretation space.

From the reception the staircase and lift lead up to the café on the first floor which has elevated south facing views across the meadow and to the foothills of the Peak District beyond. The café opens onto a south facing terrace which connects to steps and footpath leading down to the natural amphitheatre, which provides additional seating.


The Learning Centre


Playfully inspired by the community’s enthusiasm for tree houses, the Learning Centre sits within a woodland area to the south east of the hybrid application boundary.  It consists of a series of linked timber framed buildings, which sit on stilts to minimise impact to the ground and tree roots and is well screened by the surrounding trees. The Learning Centre will house a reception, classrooms, teaching kitchen and breakout space, staff facilities, multi faith prayer and meditation space, toilets and a bunkhouse.

There will also be a central, external meeting space for outdoor learning. Only the smaller end elevations of the reception and bunkhouse buildings will pop out through the trees to signpost the location of the Learning Centre, while the remaining buildings will be settled in amongst the trees.




The Northern Roots site is located ten minutes on foot from Oldham town centre, in Greater Manchester. The 160-acre site stretches from Alexandra Park in the north, past Park Bridge Heritage Centre, to Bankfield Clough in the south. It is bordered by Glodwick, Fitton Hill, Hathershaw and Alt.


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Young person at Northern Roots design consultation, Mahdlo Youth Zone, October 2021.
Northern Roots Visitor Centre, co-designed by JDDK Architects and communities in Oldham.
Young people sharing ideas with architect Alison Thornton-Sykes at Northern Roots design consultation, Oldham College, October 2021.
Artist impression of the Learning Centre at Northern Roots.
The 160-acre Northern Roots site, Oldham.