MORE THAN 100 villagers took to streets in biting winds and rain for a ‘walk in’ to highlight their concerns about the road plans around a new £19.2 million secondary school in Diggle.
Keith Lucas from Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG) led the locals of all ages, some carrying placards, from Uppermill to the site of the proposed school on Huddersfield Road.
Keith said: “The walk clearly showed for pedestrians – future school children – the proposed highways scheme is flawed and not thought out.
“There were so many danger hotspots on route. Encouraging young people to walk to the proposed school in Diggle would be, in my view, putting their safety at risk.
“It was really good to see tiny tots to people in their 90s turn up in such bad weather for the walk-in.”
He went on: “The road scheme design is universally disliked by local people for and against the school move to Diggle.
“Saddleworth Parish Council Planning Committee recently voted for the school to be built in Diggle, then made a recommendation for refusal of the associated highways works.
“If the local council can’t figure out or agree a safe and efficient way to get 1,500 children and 200 staff to a new Diggle school, why propose to build it there in the first place?”
Road safety concerns were priorities for ex-Saddleworth School pupils siblings Jessica and Matthew who took their respective babies, Rose, eight months, and Emily, two years, on the walk.
Jessica, 27, said: “I’m disgusted at the school move – it will ruin a beautiful valley. The school is a gift where it is.”
Matthew added: “The single lane traffic for buses will make things impassable.”
Mark Brooks, chair of Diggle Community Association, said: “Oldham Council must ask themselves if everything has been done to ensure the safety of 1,500 pupils squeezed down a single Diggle road and footpath twice a day for 40 weeks of the year.
“When many people say something is wrong then it usually is,” he observed.
Respected church minister 80-year-old Rev Duncan Rhodes, is a member of the new school’s technical committee.
He said: “The school coming to Diggle certainly could result in great advantages to students and people of Saddleworth.
“However, there appears to have been no clear indications of how traffic light controlled flows in and out of the village at the pinch point at the end of Huddersfield Road could work.
“And there have been no opinions stated regarding the upcoming problem of traffic flows in and through Dobcross, on Spurn Lane, or on Ward Lane.”
Saddleworth Parish councillor Lesley Brown, who lives in Diggle, added: “I am very concerned about the illogical and seemingly badly planned move to Diggle.
“Diggle is a cul-de-sac and the road is a major problem. Who will pick up the pieces when the people opposed to the move are proved correct?
“There are already traffic issues with the primary school and nursery which is going to double its capacity and industrial units at Wharf Mill.”
The walk-in was staged just five days before Oldham Council planning committee makes a decision over the new build as debate continues to rage around safety and traffic issues.
Oldham Council’s Planning Committee will meet in the Council Chambers on Thursday, February 25 at 6pm to consider four applications relating to the proposed new school.
Members of the public can attend to observe proceedings and there is no need to book or signal your intention to attend this meeting beforehand.
pictures by Carl Royle