The site, which has housed a range of activities over the years including a bowling alley, nightclub, and even a roller derby team, has a rich history dating back to its opening as the Grand Theatre in 1908.
Substantial renovation in 1937 saw it transformed into the Gaumont Cinema, before a series of conversions took place, ultimately leading to its current state.
Despite previous plans in 2007 to demolish the building and replace it with a mixed-use development, these proposals failed to materialise.
However, in May 2022, Properties Ade Limited, owned by Dubai real estate conglomerate Al Dallal Group, purchased the site for £825,000.
An application has now been submitted to Oldham Council by Munshi + Partners Architecture & Properties, acting on behalf of Al Dallal, seeking approval to demolish the building and develop the site.
The lack of detail provided in the application has raised concerns about the future of the site, with no indication given as to what might be built in its place.
The application simply states that a new development is to be proposed on the site, without any further information provided.
Furthermore, the application states that the company expects the demolition to be completed by April 23 of this year, a date that has now passed.
Despite the lack of detail, the history of the site suggests that any future development could be substantial.
Previous plans in 2007 included a mixed-use development of six to fifteen storeys, incorporating retail space, office space, a basement car park, and 126 residential apartments.
With the site’s prime location on King Street, it is likely that any development will be similarly ambitious, potentially transforming the area into a hub of activity and commerce.
However, the demolition of such an iconic building has not been without controversy.
In March, an Urban Explorer entered the site, taking photographs of the building’s interior, including abandoned snooker tables and broken fixtures.
These images highlighted the building’s dilapidated state and raised concerns among local residents about its safety.
Nevertheless, the building’s history and significance have led to calls for its preservation and refurbishment, rather than its demolition.
The building’s past as a theatre and cinema is particularly significant, with the Theatres Trust recognising its cultural and historical importance.
The trust has highlighted the building’s architectural features, including its original façade and ornate plasterwork, as well as its role in providing entertainment to the people of Oldham over the years.
The potential loss of such a landmark building has therefore raised concerns about the impact on Oldham’s cultural heritage.
The debate over the future of the former Riley’s building is likely to continue, with supporters of preservation and supporters of development likely to clash over the coming months.
Whatever the outcome, however, it is clear that the site’s history and significance make it a key part of Oldham’s heritage, and any future development must take this into account.