A SADDLEWORTH Parish Councillor is seeking an extension to a public consultation period over the siting of a new £19.2 million school in Diggle.
Keith Lucas says due to the Christmas holidays people have been unable to view or seek advice or clarification on the planning application for Saddleworth School on Huddersfield Road.
He has written to Stephen Irvine, Oldham’s Head of Planning and Infrastructure, and Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, with 250 co-signees.
And Cllr Lucas, who lives in Diggle, added that within hours of the plans being submitted to Oldham Council, the site at WH Shaws former pallet works was under floodwater.
“There is strong local public disquiet of the timescale for the public consultation over Christmas,” he said. “My feeling is once again Saddleworth and Diggle residents have been short-changed.”
In his letter, he says Cllr David Hibbert, Cabinet member for Housing, Highways and Planning, stated OMBC would ensure opportunities for the public to view, evaluate and comment on the plans would not be compromised by the Christmas holiday period.
Addressing Mr Irvine, the letter says: “As Head of Planning and Infrastructure stated ‘the applicant’ wanted to submit plans for 21 December and OMBC had no power to prevent them.
“However OMBC, as the Highways Authority, is the applicant for one of the planning proposals.
“It is also a key stake-holder in the decisions concerning the proposed demolition of buildings on-site and is part-funding aspects of the construction of the school itself.
“You could – if so wished – exercise considerable influence over the timing of the application process and to suggest otherwise is mendacious.
“The Council’s continued suspicion of public opinion in relation to this issue has prompted them to submit the application two days before Christmas day and this application has clearly been rushed out for this date.
“Furthermore, in a planning proposal of such magnitude scant direct and local written notice (that the application has been submitted) has been even offered to Diggle residents.
“Different dates have been given for determination of different applications which supposedly form part of the same scheme, this despite repeated indications from OMBC’s planning officers that determination would be at the same point.
“During the 21-day consultation period Council planning officers will not be available for comment or advice for 11 days, nor will details of the application be accessible to the public in any public space (all are closed) until 4 January.
“This means that residents without access to the internet will have no opportunity to view the plans during this period.”
He added: “Within hours of the application being submitted much of the proposed site was submerged by flood-waters, further evidence there are very serious problems associated with this proposed development for all of Saddleworth not just Diggle.
“All Saddleworth residents must have a proper opportunity to consider this complex application, form their views and express them to the Local Planning Authority.
“Far from facilitating public scrutiny of the proposals the Council appears to be doing all it can to prevent those it supposedly serves from scrutinising plans which will have an immense impact on the landscape, infrastructure and ecology of Saddleworth.”