Farewell to Saddleworth Richard Knowles reflects on 40 years

LONG-STANDING community stalwart Richard Knowles has contributed much to Saddleworth and Oldham over decades of living here.

Now, as he moved with his wife Valerie to Baildon in West Yorkshire to be nearer family, he looks back on some of his highlights and achievements.

“Valerie and I said farewell to Saddleworth recently when, after living for 40 years in Greenfield and 50 years in the Oldham area, we moved to Baildon to be nearer to our family.

“We chose to come to Greenfield in 1982 because Saddleworth School was an outstanding, all-ability, 11-18 secondary school at the heart of the community.

Richard Knowles

“Both of my children were educated at Saddleworth and I served as a Governor continuously from June 1983 until this July and as Chair for several years from 1989.

“Public service has been a large part of my life both as a councillor for 36 years and as a school governor.

“I am a passionate believer in state education, with a lifelong commitment to helping all children develop their full potential both in my professional life in higher education and as a school governor at Saddleworth Secondary School, and also for many years at Diggle and Friezland Primary Schools.

“Saddleworth Secondary School has faced challenges over the years, notably the loss of its successful Sixth Form and the difficult 20-year long campaign, that I started as Oldham Council Leader in 2002, to secure a new school building with top class facilities to provide the best opportunities for our children.

“Saddleworth School strives to be excellent in academic achievement, in all-round performance and in developing the whole child. It provides a rounded education for all pupils and its inclusive ethos is its hallmark. The school identifies and engages well with our local community.

“What I valued most in my time as a borough councillor, and also since retirement, was helping thousands of residents with individual issues and initiating and leading successful, and often lengthy, campaigns for improved community facilities and public services.

“Highlights include new primary school buildings for Dobcross and Greenfield and a school extension at Diggle, and the new Saddleworth Secondary School.

“Other achievements include better rail and bus services, the new Greenfield Library building in 1983, giving all residents free internet access in all libraries since 2001, saving and moving Greenfield Post Office, creating the 42-mile long Oldham Way circular footpath, saving Chew Valley’s Green Belt, establishing First Choice Homes Oldham and Oldham Community Leisure Limited, improving Saddleworth Swimming Pool in Uppermill and creating all-weather pitches, saving Uppermill’s ATM cash machine, providing Greenfield Station with a new ticket office and waiting room and free station parking at Saddleworth Rangers.

“I was also privileged to serve the community as Oldham Council Leader and Mayor and since retirement as an Honorary Alderman.

“Saddleworth’s future looks bright. It needs strong community leadership to ensure the opportunities provided by the new Secondary School are seized, better public services are provided including a new health centre, and threats such as bus cuts, building on green belt land and High Speed Rail 3 are challenged.”

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