Buckley: Council is ‘panicking’

Date published: 22 July 2014

Mike Buckley, a leading campaigner for the Save Diggle Action Group, which wants the new school built at its existing Uppermill site, accused the council of “panicking.”

He said: “The option to build at the rear of the Diggle site was put forward last July to the EFA and they rejected it.

“I had a meeting in Manchester two weeks ago with the EFA when they were looking seriously at Uppermill as a option. Whether you build in the front of the Diggle site or back of the site, the EFA will only provide £17million. It’s the same money.

“The extra on-site costs would be substantially more at both Diggle sites and those costs have to be met by the EFA and, because of engineering works at the site, they would be significantly more than Uppermill.

“If the new school was built on its existing site there would be no real extra costs, possibly other than additional demolition costs of £150,000. “I suspect the EFA are favouring the Uppermilll site. Oldham Council is panicking. The council would be using rate payers’ extra money.

“They are not listening to local views and in the end it will be the council taxpayers’ loss. The council is prepared to pump money in at Diggle, when Saddleworth people want the school to remain in Uppermill. Why? It just doesn’t make sense.”

Councillor Robert Knotts, spokesman for the independents on Saddleworth Parish Council, said: “It is understood that the existing Uppermill site and now two proposals for the Diggle site will be considered for the new school.

“It is also understood that EFA will only fund the building of the school. Other funding will be needed for inside site work and work outside the site — an example of work inside the Diggle site for the original proposal includes flattening the ground and dealing with the flood plain.

“Outside site work will include accommodating traffic. All costs associated with the Uppermill and Diggle options have to be analysed with total and unequivocal openness, honesty and complete transparency.

“Moreover, the studies must compare apples with apples. In addition, all costs and parameters embracing access and associated traffic issues, environmental considerations, the impact of water plain levels, drainage, flooding risks, ecological factors and conservation concerns are among the many factors that must be included in the analysis.

“Furthermore, the views of pupils, parents and residents need to be sought and considered. In fact, all of these factors should have been considered in selecting the site in the first place — sadly they were not.”

A spokesman for Diggle Community Association said they wanted time to digest the report before commenting.

Councillor Garth Harkness, of the Saddleworth North ward, speaking on behalf of the Oldham Lib-Dem group, said: “The Liberal Democrat Saddleworth councillors are delighted that Oldham Council is obtaining options for the site at the back of the Shaw Pallets works in Diggle.

“This option is one that we have consistently tried to achieve in the absence of the possibility of acceptance of other sites.

A major factor of course, will be that there will be no buildings on the greenbelt.

“Liberal Democrat councillors reiterate our pledge to support the building of a new school in Saddleworth whichever site is chosen by the EFA as financially and technically possible.”

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, who has been raising her concerns and those of her constituents with the relevant authorities, including the EFA, the School’s Minister and Oldham Council since October, 2013, said: “Once again I re-state my belief that that the need for a new Saddleworth School fit for our young people in the 21st century is paramount.

“I am glad that the Government and the EFA are undertaking these additional feasibility studies as I requested. Once these are published I will be in a position to consider any new evidence. I welcome the EFA’s move away from the intransigent position it first took when I raised constituents’ concerns.”

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