Uncertain future for new school in Saddleworth after judicial review decision

PLANS FOR a new £19.2 million Saddleworth School in Diggle have been thrown into chaos after Oldham Council suffered an embarrassing High Court defeat. 

Mr Justice Kerr, upholding two of the nine challengers by anti-Diggle school campaigners, ruled the CounciSaddleworth School sign smallerl’s bid to re-locate from its present Uppermill site was unlawful.

His verdict was a stunning win for the Save Diggle Action Group who campaigned against the council’s proposal to move the school to the former WH Shaw pallet works off Huddersfield Road.

Keith Lucas, spokesperson for SDAG, said: “For all of us on the SDAG Committee and Saddleworth residents supporting our campaign, this is of course an emotional victory.

“We have always felt the planning application process was flawed and that due consideration was never on offer or given proper consideration by the authorities to look carefully at alternative sites.

“This final challenge would have been out of reach without the support of local residents, both morally and financially, and our sincere gratitude to their unwavering support needs to be noted.

“Also I must stress our upmost thanks to our legal team Robert McCracken QC and Alastair Wallace – Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who have shepherded us through the legal tangle and stress of this campaign.

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Keith Lucas

“The court has said, in our favour, clearly and unequivocally that the planning persmission was unlawful. Accordingly, the court has quashed the decision and the council will now have to look at the matter again.

“We are delighted with the outcome and for once a public concern has been given legal precedence and we have won a small victory for people’s democracy.

“Now we should all work together to urgently achieve a new school on the Uppermill site, which both safeguards our heritage and is best for the whole of Saddleworth.”

Last year, a 3,000-name petition against moving the school to Diggle was handed into Oldham Council along with 650 letters of objections.

But saddened Saddleworth School headmaster, Matthew Milburn, warned: “Another generation of children will miss out through no fault of their own.”

Construction of the new school was originally set to begin in Easter 2014 ­with the new school set to open in autumn, 2015.

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Matthew Milburn

Mr Milburn added: “In a week when Saddleworth School has been designated as a National Support School it is so frustrating that once again the new building has been delayed by a technicality completely outside the control of those who work and learn at the school.

“The Saddleworth team is fantastic. We will of course make the most of what we have and the prestigious designation from the National College of Teaching and Leadership is further evidence of that.

“However, pupils and staff deserve more. They deserve to learn and work in a fit for purpose building.

“I would like to thank parents, the Council, The Education Funding Agency, local partner primary schools and not least the children for their faith, patience and determination to get the new school built.

“We will of course support the Council and I will be pushing to get the job done. I get asked on a daily basis “Sir, will we still be here when the new school opens?” I only wish I could answer with a level of certainty.

“This whole saga has gone on far too long. We need to get the new school built and give the pupils the facilities that they deserve.”

Brian Lord, chair of governors at Saddleworth School, added: “To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement.

“Now yet more pupils are being denied the opportunity to be taught in a building that is fit for purpose. Don’t forget that the new school should have been open now.

“Patching up the old one and having to replace worn out equipment from present funds is putting a huge strain on the school’s budget.

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The site in Diggle picked for a new school

“I hope now that the silent majority will speak out and support the school in trying to get this matter over and done with and the new school built.

“It would appear that right now the EFA are still prepared to fund a new build but if SDAG continue to frustrate the efforts to get planning permission how long will this last?

“We may end up with no secondary school in Saddleworth and how many residents would want that?”

Oldham Council issued a brief statement expressing its disappointment.

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Cabinet Member for Education and Early Years, said: “We note the judge’s decision and are disappointed.

“Our top priority throughout this lengthy process has always been to deliver a fit-for-purpose educational facility for Saddleworth School.

“We are currently considering our next steps in consultation with our partners on this project, so it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this stage.”

Diggle for Saddleworth School also issued a statement saying:” D4SS would like to express our deep disappointment with the decision made at the recent Judicial Review.

“We are deeply frustrated with the divisive and misguided actions of a small minority of people.

“It has been well-documented that the current school building is no longer fit for purpose, and these further delays are a cause for real concern.

“The staff and children are working in what we know are very difficult conditions, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the school for their perseverance and positivity in the face of continuing adversity.

“We look forward to hearing how the council and school will move forward on this and help to secure a school building that the children of Saddleworth deserve.”

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. Aimee can I please ask, why, whenever there is a story about SDAG, they always, ALWAYS get first plug? You’ve already written a story of their ‘stunning victory’. Why not offer this story to the majority of saddleworth who are against the actions of SDAG. I have not read one single comment over the past two days supporting what they have done. This is shoddy journalism.

  2. I’m not sure how a couple of NIMBY’s getting their way at the detriment of thousands of future Saddleworth children can be described as a ‘stunning’ victory.

    This is a very sad time for Saddleworth when the few against can ruin the future lives of so many.

    I’m sure before the site was decided there were many who would have liked to see it in Uppermill but that isn’t possible and people have moved on and are behind the Diggle site now in the interests of the children who are being educated in a building becoming more derelict as time goes on.

    I’m not sure how you can keep giving so much time to SDAG who just do not speak for the majority.

    Let’s stop this and work together as a community to campaign for a building that the children of the community deserve.

  3. I agree, terrible journalism…only ever written in favour of supporting the effects to prevent the school being built. I wonder if you will print the Head Boys letter before it reaches National papers? I think not. I wonder if Keith Lucas is proud that no matter what he has done in the past, he will always be known as the person who prevented Saddleworth children from a decent education…maybe known as the person who stopped Secondary education in Saddleworth if they decide to close the school altogether.

  4. Can’t understand why this article does not draw more attention to the fact that out of 9 challenges raised by SDAG all were quashed apart from 2 , the main one being lack of respect to our “industrial heritage” ! We all know that no-one was ever concerned about the “bridge” and “industrial heritage” until lawyers realised this could be the loophole they were looking for….surely this is where the story lies ? Assume this one “oversight” on the part of the planners can be easily addressed……..

  5. I’m a councillor on a planning committee nowhere near Oldham. Without trawling for the full court judgment (or the planning application) the bottom line is that the substantial harm caused by demolition of a listed building must be balanced by substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss. The judge seems to think that saving public money is not a substantial public benefit.

    But Diggle seems a long way from the centre of the catchment area, meaning a lot of extra travel for most pupils – or does the school take pupils from the Marsden side of the hill?

  6. @Stephenrp

    Diggle is less than a mile from the existing school.

    These nimbys in the action group should be ashamed of themselves.

  7. This is not a victory for the people of saddleworth. It is a personal victory for a group set up by a man who didn’t want the inconvenience of a school at the back of his own residence.
    Many people agree with the council and EFA that the best of the four proposed site options is Diggle. All sites have different issues and limitations. Taking all those into consideration the one which has the least impact on the least people is Diggle.
    Expecting children to carry on working in an already dilapidated school whilst a major building work rubbles on within metres of them is unacceptable.
    The dangers of the site traffic at this particular Uppermill site, where there is no other option but to have both using the same limited entrance is unacceptable.
    To use any and every reason to try to slow and prevent your view being ruined, by manipulatung people in to thinking you have the communities best interests at heart and bullying and ridiculing those who disagree into silence is unacceptable.
    This has now dragged on so long and so many children have lost out, that in each passing year you are ostrosizing more and more of the local community as they see your protests for what they really are. A parish councillor abusing his position of authority to gain support for a fight with self serving ends!

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