Northern Roots Masterplan & Building Designs


Thanks to everyone who participated in Northern Roots’ consultation events, site tours, building co-design sessions and online consultation in 2021. Your ideas and feedback have been crucial in shaping the developing vision for Northern Roots.

In response to a broad range of community input, the masterplan for the Northern Roots site, and designs for the Visitor Centre and Learning Centre, have now been finalised for inclusion in the planning application for Northern Roots. The planning application was submitted in April 2022. If planning permission is granted, construction will begin in 2022.


What does the planning application include?


The application covers the vision for the northern third of the 160-acre site in outline, along with detailed applications for the proposed Visitor Centre, Forestry Depot, Learning Centre and Solar Array.  A separate application for the Bike Hub and Trails facility was submitted in February 2022.

One of the key things we heard from you during the consultation phase, is that you would prefer proposed buildings to be located at the northern end of the site nearer to Alexandra Park, leaving the southern end of the site largely undeveloped and natural.

As an immediate result of your feedback, we reduced the scope of the area included in the planning application for Northern Roots to focus on the top third of the site.


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

The planning application reference number is FUL/348898/22 and the full planning application can be viewed at


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.


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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.