THE building of Saddleworth School in Diggle has moved a step closer after a key consultee in the planning process has removed an objection.
The Environment Agency had previously stymied proposals for the Uppermill school to be re-located at the WH Shaw Pallets site due to an unacceptable flood risk assessment.
Early last month those objections were still in place. But a letter to Oldham Council dated September 17 stated: “We have fully reviewed the information submitted and satisfied it addresses our previous concerns.
“We are now in a position to remove our objection but would wish to make the following comments.
“We consider full planning permission for the proposed development should only be granted if the following mitigation measures as set out in the revised Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) are implemented and secured by way of a planning condition on any planning permission.”
News of the EA’s lifting of its objection has been received with mixed views by pro and anti Diggle school campaign groups.
A statement from Saddleworth Parents said: ‘We are delighted to see that the Environment Agency have lifted their objection to the new Saddleworth School on the preferred Diggle site.
“We appreciate the caution the statutory consultee has shown. However we are now keen to see the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) submit the new school application to the Planning Committee for approval.
“And for OMBC and the ESFA to continue to engage the expertise of their leading barristers to ensure that all the application processes and paperwork are spot on.
“We want to know that the construction period can start and our children will not have to face any further delays in getting a new school building that is of the 21st Century and fit for purpose.”
The Save Diggle Action Group, who won a High Court action in March 2017 to block the building of the school in Diggle, said its supportres are “truly disappointed” by the EA’s decision “without any material change or satisfactory technical reason”.
“We are mystified why such an about turn from the EA, especially as they have been adamant there were serious problems with the computer modelling exercise submitted and have objected to findings for the last nine months,” they said.
“Residents throughout Saddleworth should be concerned that an FRA is being given the “nod” without we feel full technical scrutiny.
“Anybody who witnessed the flooding of 2014 will have strong memories about the devastating affect it had.
“The scheme proposed for Diggle school playing fields could exacerbate that.”
Planning approval for a new 1,500 school in Diggle was given in March 2015 as part of an eight-year battle to provide Saddleworth with new school premises.It was then withdrawn after the High Court case in March 2017.
No date has been confirmed as to when the application will again come before Oldham Council planning department.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said;
“The Environment Agency work closely at all times with local authorities, communities and businesses, to ensure that we invest where we can provide the greatest benefit to people and property at risk of flooding.
“Any planning application in a flood risk area is diligently assessed and in this case our initial objection to the planning application had highlighted the following deficiencies :
· Excavation of the existing floodplain is not adequate compensatory storage:
· Provide level by level compensatory flood storage for the proposed ground raising, gabion walls and finished floor level. The development must not increase flood risk elsewhere
· Compensatory flood storage must be provided throughout the floodplain affected by the ground raising works and/or stabilisation works.
· The volume of displaced water is unknown and there remains uncertainties about flood risk being increased elsewhere.
“The Environment Agency then received information from the applicant’s consultant which included a 2D model. A 2D river model is the best available tool to estimate flood levels and flood routes within the floodplain and the model has been reviewed by our Mapping and Modelling team.
“The outputs from this modelling work provided sufficient evidence and explanation to demonstrate that flood risk is not increased elsewhere. Therefore, the flood risk assessment meets the requirements from the National Planning Policy Framework and associated guidance”