Fresh twist in school site saga

Date published: 22 July 2014

THERE has been yet another twist in the new Saddleworth School saga as Oldham Council Cabinet members last night proposed a new site option after “listening to the community’s concerns”.

Land at the back of WH Shaw Pallet works in Diggle is now being reviewed as a possible site for the new school — rather than at the front, adjacant to Huddersfield Road. In April, the council had completed legal agreements in principle to potentially buy land at the former WH Shaw Pallet Works if it was confirmed as the selected site.

The council last night approved a new option to complete legal negotiations to purchase a different plot at the rear of the site, if selected by the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

The new proposals in Diggle would provide a bigger site of around 18 acres, it would see industrial buildings cleared to make way for the new school, sports hall and ancillary buildings, and be more sympathetic to the local environment.

Green-belt land at the site would then only be used for sports pitch provision.

The new Saddleworth School project is being managed by the EFA on behalf of the Department for Education.

Oldham Council must identify potential site options and negotiate any necessary legal agreements to enable the delivery of whichever site is chosen.

The EFA is currently undertaking its feasibility study before choosing a site later this year.

It is now considering four different schemes for the new school — two using the existing Saddleworth School site and the two options in Diggle.

Oldham Council leader Jim McMahon said: “To achieve the best outcome for everyone we know the concerns of local residents have to be balanced with the need to deliver a new school.

“We’ve listened to the community’s concerns about the earlier Diggle proposals and are proposing a scheme here that would mitigate the potential impact.

“Buying the rear site would mean additional costs for the project. However, as a council we are prepared to contribute towards funding that gap. We also remain 100 per cent committed to the works and associated costs we already know would be required to address people’s concerns about highways, parking and access issues.

“The EFA has been informed of our position. They confirmed they will consider this option as part of their feasibility study which is evaluating all the site options in terms of location, size and suitability.

“They will now undertake the further survey work required to consider this option and hope to report back in September with a decision on which site to take into the formal planning process.”