OLDHAM Council is being pressed for answers to a community’s longest running saga: when will Saddleworth School be built?
Cllr Robert Knotts, chair of Saddleworth Parish Council, made his request in a letter to Stephen Irvine, the council’s head of planning and development.
Cllr Knotts says he understands the Environment Agency has withdrawn objections to Flood Risk Assessment for building the £19.2 million school at Diggle and asks when the planning application will be submitted.
His letter to Mr Irvine says: “When the previous application was submitted, Saddleworth Parish Council dealt with it separately to the other planning applications to accommodate the associated public interest.
“We plan to do the same again. But to enable the Parish Council to find a suitable opportunity to use the Civic Hall for the meeting, please advise on when the application is likely to be submitted.
“As with the last application I view that you should also address the meeting.”
Cllr Knotts continues: “As you know there are residents very much in favour of the school being built in Diggle while other oppose it being sited there.
“On the Parish Council’s planning committee I sense a need and wish to get the school built and my own view is the Parish Council will approve the application.
“However, there is still concern about the traffic issue in Diggle, certainly from residents opposed to the school being in Diggle and also from those supporting it being there.
“At the last planning application meeting serious concern was expressed about the associated traffic computer simulation study together with other traffic concerns.
“I’m prepared to be corrected, but in the comments I viewed that were subsequently submitted to Oldham Council’s planning committee none of the concerns were included.
“The statement I read was limited to words to the effect ‘there was a slight risk arising from the traffic issues’.
“A possible way forward to overcome the concern would be to offer another access road should the current traffic plans offer difficulties.”
He adds: “It’s taken six years since the school plans were resurrected in 2012 to get where we are today. Overall, I’m told 10 years have elapsed since the idea was first aired.”
Frustrated parents have seen their children leave the existing school on High Street in Uppermill after legal wrangles and protests halted proposals moving the school to Diggle.
One local disgruntled mother whose eldest son left the existing Saddleworth School declared: “Whatever the outcome, I doubt my younger son, who is three years away from leaving, will ever cross the new school’s threshold before it’s time for him to go.”
After six months of negotiations, officers for the Environment Agency (EA) have removed their formal objection to proposals to move Saddleworth School to Diggle.
They had previously refused to support the plan over flooding fears, arguing the location at the former WH Shaw pallet works was “inappropriate”.
But now they say they have enough evidence to show the development would not increase the flood risk on the site.
The turnaround was confirmed by Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding, who was met by cheers from Saddleworth and Shaw councillors when he announced the news at a town hall meeting last year.
Cllr Fielding said: “Hopefully we will soon be able to give local children in Saddleworth the school facilities they deserve.”
But currently there is no announcement from the council.