FOUR planning applications related to the proposed new Saddleworth School are live for public consultation and comments.
The proposals set out plans for construction of a new school at the WH Shaw former pallet works site off Huddersfield Road in Diggle, for pupils aged 11 to 16 years old.
The plans included construction of associated sports fields and pitches, external recreation and teaching space together with parking landscaping and associated works.
Oldham Council has received a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted by Interserve, the construction partner selected by Government on this project.
The new EIA, published on September 27, relates to four planning applications that were subject to a Judicial Review earlier in the year.
The planning applications were taken to Judicial Review after a campaign by the Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG) against a school move.
The applications have now been re-submitted and are open for public comments until Wednesday, January 17, 2018.
The planning applications are for:
1. Building the new Saddleworth School on the WH Shaw Pallets site in Diggle;
2. Demolishing the existing buildings on the WH Shaw site, excluding the listed building;
3. Demolishing the link bridge attached to the Grade II listed building on the WH Shaw site;
4. Providing a parental drop off area plus residential car parking as part of the wider highways scheme in Diggle.
Following consultation it is anticipated these four applications will be considered by members of Oldham Council’s Planning Committee in early 2018.
All relevant paperwork can be viewed on the planning section of the Oldham Council website, using planning reference number: PA/337301/15: www.oldham.gov.uk/planning
Here, the Independent looks at responses to the new planning application from various groups in favour of and against the building of a new school in Diggle.
Keith Lucas, spokesperson for the Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG), said: “Every reasonable person wants a new school for Saddleworth – the question is where?
“What is alarming is the revised plans have totally ignored the Judicial Review Judge Justice Kerr’s criticism on the site feasibility study’s site selection process.
“The court said clearly and unequivocally that it was ‘unlawful’. OMBC and the EFSA have in their revised plans refused to accept that verdict and are just using a revised Environmental Assessment statement as window dressing to push through this new plan.
“We have recently written to Rt Hon Justice Greening MP Secretary of State for Education and other government ministers asking them to intervene in this long running and contentious planning application.
“OMBC’s Cllr Amanda Chadderton has publicly stated she refuses to talk to SDAG and this puts a question mark on the council’s democratic stance.”
He added: “Another concern is the amount of complaints I have had about the distribution of the D4SS/Saddleworth Parents leaflet via Diggle Primary School and Saddleworth School without prior knowledge of parents.”
Mark Brooks, chair of Diggle Community Association, spoke of his personal views on a possible school move: “Why would you choose to build the wrong school in the wrong place again?
“This is a desperately disappointing decision and one which demonstrates the utter belligerence of our local council.
“The council have dismissed the Judicial Review recommendations, dismissed the wishes of the wider Community and now seem intent on sacrificing Saddleworth’s heritage and the Diggle Valley to locate the wrong school into the wrong place.
“I feel sorry for Saddleworth’s future generations who now face further delays, destruction of their green belt and the real possibility of a planning debacle similar to the costly tax payer funded failure recently experienced.
“A new fit for purpose school would have been up and running now if the council had listened to the community back in 2013 and chose Uppermill.”
However, Matthew Milburn, Headteacher at Saddleworth School, said: “I’m delighted the planning application for the new school has been published.
“Similar plans received cross party support in the council last time and I very much hope that this will be case later this winter.
“The design is both exciting and deliverable and once passed will mean that within around two years, the children of Saddleworth will have a modern, clean, safe and inspiring secondary school building befitting of their ambition and our values.
“The time has come for everyone in Saddleworth to pull together to ensure that the ESFA and the council are enabled to deliver this great new community resource.”
Saddleworth Parents said: “We are fed up with the arguments and negativity, and the fact many in Saddleworth have lost sight of the children, their education and their futures.
“Hundreds of pupils that previously started at Saddleworth School have since left and missed out on the fit-for-purpose school premises they were promised.
“It should not be a luxury to be able to concentrate on education, rather than face disruption, move classes and change lesson plans due to a failing school building.
“The community has been very divided as to the site of the new school, and many have been focused on the location of the school rather than the needs of the local children, their safety and their education.
“Time and again Saddleworth Parents have said that we do not want a turf war. We are parents not planners.
“Saddleworth Parents urge the OMBC Planning Committee to approve the new school so construction can start as expediently as possible and bring an end to this ridiculous and costly situation.”
Keith Prior, chair of Diggle for Saddleworth School, (D4SS) said: “D4SS very much welcomes the new planning application for the new school to be built in Diggle.
“We see this as the start of the end of the process of getting the children of Saddleworth a new school they so richly deserve.
“Let’s get this school built and give the students, children and the community a school Saddleworth can be proud of and that leads the way in educational and community facilities.”
The Saddleworth Independent wishes to clarify our reporting in our October newspaper of comments made regarding the distribution of a leaflet about a new Saddleworth School in Diggle.
The leaflet was printed by D4SS and Saddleworth Parents, and some of the distribution was carried out by means of sending pupils at Saddleworth School and local feeder schools an electronic copy, or giving them leaflet to take home to read with their families when an email address had not been provided.
However, pupils were not encouraged by Saddleworth School or its teachers to distribute the leaflets within the community. D4SS and Saddleworth Parents organised the distribution of the leaflets to the local community, with help from parents and children.