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Note of contention on new school site

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date online: 17 July 2017

A PARENTS' pressure group says the new £19.2 million Saddleworth School will be built in Diggle.

The information is revealed by Saddleworth Parents, a protest movement which organised an online petition demanding instant action over building the school.

Thirza Dixon, an Uppermill mother and spokesperson for the group, revealed the contents of an email from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Their note to her said: "Following the outcome of the Judicial Review, the ESFA and Oldham Council's Education Department have been working together to consider the options available in regards to the rebuilding of Saddleworth School.

Existing

"They consider there is a compelling need to rebuild the existing facilities and both parties believe that the former Diggle pallet works site provides the best opportunity for the future of children attending Saddleworth School.

"The ESFA is undertaking further work to inform a future planning application to Oldham Council's Planning Department and will, of course, consult on the proposals."

Mrs Dixon said: "I can unequivocally confirm that the statement has come from the Governance and Communications of the ESFA in London.

"I asked if there was any update and or comment about the Saddleworth School situation and they sent that. My last written request was July 11. It came the day after."

The move is the latest dramatic twist in a tussle over the siting of the new 1,500-pupil school which has raged for years.

The Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG) argue for the school being rebuilt in its current site in High Street, Uppermill, with Diggle for Saddleworth School (D4SS) saying it should be built at the former WH Shaw's pallet works at Huddersfield Road.

The Saddleworth Parents online petition came from frustrated parents who just want a school built now.

Under the group's banner "Stop the delay find a way" Mrs Dixon insisted: "We don't want a turf war ­- we just want a new school."

Their protest, which has been signed by more than 1,000, accelerated after Oldham Council distributed a borough-wide secondary schools admissions letter which has to be completed and returned by October 31.

The council letter arrived when the new Saddleworth School build project is under review following the planning process being taken to Judicial Review by the SDAG.

Then, Mrs Dixon said: "Saddleworth Parents' tempers are fraying, and after more than eight years of waiting for a new school, local mums and dads are getting increasingly angry."

And today she said: "The recent joint statement about a future planning application for the new Saddleworth School is welcome news from the ESFA and Oldham Council.

"We remain very motivated to clearly demonstrate the support the new Saddleworth School has from parents and locals."

Keith Prior, spokesperson for D4SS, who have campaigned for the school to be built in the village, said: "We welcome this decision which we believe is correct, sensible and practical.

"Saddleworth children's education must come first in the decision-making process and D4SS firmly believe Diggle is the only viable option that ensures the best possible educational facilities going forward.

"However, we will not be satisfied until the first spade is in the ground and we are assured of decent, first class school facilities."

SDAG, which wants the school rebuilt at the existing Uppermill site, said: "Our first reaction is how is it that such an important issue, one that will profoundly affect all Saddleworth residents, be announced in such an amateurish manner?

"Are unattributed announcements on Facebook the right way to make official council statements of this kind?

"SDAG continues to battle for residents and supporters in getting answers to unanswered questions. Why is the Uppermill site not suitable?

"Has the council looked again at the Uppermill site as the judge at the recent judicial review indicated they needed to?

"Why is Diggle the best choice when the myriad of problems associated with it are self-evident?"

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Cabinet Member Education and Skills, said: "Oldham Council welcomes the announcement from the ESFA that they want to move forward with work to build Saddleworth School on the site they have identified.

"We expect a planning application will be submitted in due course and this will be decided in accordance with our normal planning procedures."

Comments

Save Diggle Action Group need to accept that people are fed up of their delaying tactics and just want the new school to be built as a MATTER OF PRIORITY.

The Uppermill site is a cramped site with limited access and currently has over 1000 children being educated there. There is no room for a building site. Diggle is an empty largely brownfield site which can be built on without impinging on those children currently in school. Yes, the Judicial Review did point out that the "industrial heritage" must be taken into account - I'm sure this can be done.

Its the children who are suffering because of the horlicks OMBC staff have made of this situation.

Time to work with the community, get the job done correctly from day one and put the education of children first.

Finally some positive news for the pupils of Saddleworth School!

It is a shame that SDAG seem to be focussing on "finding the delay so it will all go away."

Whereas the Parents (and kids) are quite clear ... Stop the Delay and Find a Way.

We lost the last school under JSF due to delays, let's not lose it again.

Really happy for the generations to come that there will be a local secondary school for them in Saddleworth, what a legacy to have. A new place of learning in Saddleworth.

I have no vested interest in the area or the school, but Diggle is the wrong location; the school should be built on the existing site. This seems patently obvious to me but for reasons which appear increasingly sinister Oldham council will not budge.

Get the Panning Application in, and this time get it right so that a judge can't find a reason tho quash the decision.

I think we need to be clear on the Uppermill / Diggle thing ...

Uppermill :
1) it was reviewed and was rejected as a site
2) this was confirmed in the Diggle Community Association meeting
3) Buses let alone fully loaded lorries cannot get up the driveway
4) Lorries cannot do a 3 point turn in the car park (even without cars)
5) Site is higher requiring lifting gear - expense
6) New planning applications, consultations etc ... more delays

Diggle
1) was 98% accepted under the Judicial Review

Oh my goodness, feel like SDAG have been told so many times that the majority of the community is blue in the face, Diggle is the far superior site and all the issues at Diggle can be overcome - it's clear as day!! Absolutely nothing sinister, it's a bigger, flatter better site - all any sensible person needs to do is look at the facts. Just accept it and let's get the school built. Talk about NIMBYism and eyes that don't want to see and ears that don't want to hear.

SDAG put far too much weight on the judicial review outcome. It won't change anything because the benefits of Diggle far outweigh all heritage harm. It was a single sentence missing from a committee report to document that avoiding heritage harm had been considered. It's not a game changer in the slightest, just a delay tactic. Planning decisions are all about balance and it won't change a thing.

I think we need to be clear on the Uppermill / Diggle thing ...

Uppermill :
1) it was reviewed and was rejected as a site
2) this was confirmed in the Diggle Community Association meeting
3) Buses let alone fully loaded lorries cannot get up the driveway
4) Lorries cannot do a 3 point turn in the car park (even without cars)
5) Site is higher requiring lifting gear - expense
6) New planning applications, consultations etc ... more delays

Diggle
1) was 98% accepted under the Judicial Review

I think we need to be clear on the Uppermill / Diggle thing ...

Uppermill :
1) it was reviewed and was rejected as a site
2) this was confirmed in the Diggle Community Association meeting
3) Buses let alone fully loaded lorries cannot get up the driveway
4) Lorries cannot do a 3 point turn in the car park (even without cars)
5) Site is higher requiring lifting gear - expense
6) New planning applications, consultations etc ... more delays

Diggle
1) was 98% accepted under the Judicial Review

It’s great that the ESFA has resisted the attempt to stop the new school in Diggle. The Diggle Action Group’s insistence that a new school will ruin the village is putting off people who may want to live in Diggle. American end of the world cults followed false prophets. When the end of the world did not come the only way the cult could match belief to reality was to convince others they were right. Eventually, when there were no more suckers, the cult died. Diggle Action Group is such a cult.

 

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