78% in an independent poll said build Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill
(source: Saddleworth School Poll on Saddleworth News)
90% of those asked are signing our door to door petition
Over 3000 people have signed a door to door petition asking for the EFA and OMBC to build new Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill and it's growing
Come and JOIN THEM
Revised Saddleworth School Planning Applications 2017
Both the Education Skills and Funding Agency (EFSA (previously the EFA)) and Oldham Council have failed to revisit their flawed site selection processes, which were highly criticised by Mr Justice Kerr at this year's Judicial Review.
With Oldham Council's total backing, the ESFA has just revised the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the existing four planning applications for Diggle and they are once again open for public consultation until Wednesday, 17th January 2018.
Please read the Save Diggle Action Group Winter 2017 Newsletter, which provides vital factual information, together with details of how to object to these revised planning applications.
The four planning applications can be found at:
- PA/337931/15 - Demolition of buildings
- LB/337929/15 - Demolition of Listed Link Bridge
- PA/337301/15 - School construction
- PA/337930/15 - Car park and Highways
If you previously objected online through Oldham Council's Planning Portal, their system WILL NOT ALLOW you to submit a further revised online objection. Under these circumstances, we advise that you send a letter of objection to these four planning applications directly to the Planning Department, via email or post, using the details found at the bottom of our Winter 2017 Newsletter.
If you have not already done so, please also read our Summer 2017 Newsletter.
Summer 2017 Newsletter and Letter Campaign
Please read the Save Diggle Action Group Summer 2017 Newsletter and download, sign and send our template letter to Helen Lockwood, Executive Director of Economy, Skills and Neighbourhoods at Oldham Council, requesting that there should be no more delays. That they now acknowledge the verdict of a High Court judge and protect both Saddleworth's cultural heritage and Green Belt land by telling the EFA that the new school will be built on the existing school's playing fields in Uppermill.
High Court Verdict
2nd March 2017
The court was being asked whether the process followed by Oldham Council in reaching its decision to grant planning permission to build a new Saddleworth School in Diggle was lawful.
The court has said clearly and unequivocally that it was unlawful.
Accordingly, the court has quashed the decision and the Council will now have to look at the matter again. The reason for the court's judgement is that when making their decision councillors were not given the opportunity to consider whether the school would be better placed on the Uppermill site.
The decision was based not just "on a technicality", as others are now suggesting in the media, but on a serious breach of planning law.
Quoting from Mr Justice Kerr's judgement:
- "The alternative site was obviously relevant for a number of reasons "
- "The Educational Funding Authority study had not ruled out Uppermill on financial grounds "
- "The feasibility study had not included any consideration of harm to a heritage asset"
- "there would be savings to be made in relation to bus transport"
"I bear in mind that the objectors' arguments in favour of Uppermill were not obviously trivial and without merit, and that the Secretary of State [for Education], though served as an interested party, has not sought to contradict Ms Marshall's account of her contacts with the EFA and the indication that it would be willing to fund redevelopment of the school on the existing site should the council choose that option."
Mr Justice Kerr was also highly critical of the Council's suggestion, which was also instructed to the planning committee in April 2016, that if heritage had been included as another criteria within the EFA's feasibility study's scoring exercise, that the Diggle Pallet Works site would have still "outstripped Uppermill as the preferred site"
Mr Justice Kerr states "This is to reduce the concept of substantial harm to a heritage asset to a mere unweighted number in a scoring exercise which assumes, without warrant, that the heritage concerns should command the same weight in the scoring exercise as other concerns that were scored in the feasibility study. Furthermore, if heritage concerns had been scored in the exercise, they might well have been downplayed just as they later were in the February 2016 report which characterised the damage as less than substantial."
Our factual evidence presented at the Judicial Review hearing
- The EFA's Feasibility Study's recommendation of the Diggle Pallet Works site was "made on the option offering the best value for money to the public purse" not the best site option in planning terms.
- The EFA's feasibility study exercise, carried out in 2014, did not include consideration of the effects of the proposals on heritage assets and the harm to them.
- The Council's Cabinet Saddleworth School site selection report (30/03/2015) also did not include consideration of the effects of the proposals on heritage assets and the harm to them. That the Council was under the misapprehension at the time that "The development of the school will arguably result in a better setting for the listed building.[Page 28]", even though there had been no heritage assessment completed by either the EFA or Oldham Council to inform this belief.
(Since March 2016, the Council has acknowledged that the new school development in Diggle will result in "significant" harm to the iconic Dobcross Loom Works Grade II listed clock tower building.)
- That Mr Mike Green, Head of Capital at the EFA, had confirmed the following facts at several different meetings with local Saddleworth Independent Parish Councillors and Diggle residents:
- Both Uppermill site options had NOT been ruled out for any reason by the EFA (including against costs, disruption or safety).
- Both Uppermill site options were covered by the EFA's overall funding envelope, which included adequate extra funding for abnormals (i.e. ground preparation, levelling and demolition) over and above their £19.2m fixed budget for the construction of the school buildings. The Uppermill site options had more abnormal costs associated with them, but these were still within their overall funding budget.
- The final choice of site remained solely a decision for Oldham Council.
- Both Uppermill site options were viable options for the new school and should Oldham Council request the EFA to locate the new school on one of these two Uppermill site options, then the EFA would do so and it would be covered by their funding.
- Should the Diggle Pallet Works option be chosen by the Council and the planning permission subsequently refused for any reason, the focus would then shift to a different site, which would include those in Uppermill.
- Both Uppermill site options had NOT been ruled out for any reason by the EFA (including against costs, disruption or safety).
SDAG has always campaigned for:-
- A new school for Saddleworth, but on the most appropriate site, which is the existing school site in Uppermill.
- The Council to listen to and take on board the concerns and wishes of the Saddleworth people and to abide by their legal obligations.
The opposition to the choice of Diggle as the site for the new school has attracted an extremely high level of support as can be seen from the following statistics:-
- FACT: A petition with almost 3000 signatures was given to the Council in February 2015, requesting the Council build the new school in Uppermill. (The biggest petition in the Council's history and the only one ever to reach the Council's threshold to trigger a debate in a full Council meeting.) [Full Council meeting of the 04/02/2015]
- FACT: During the Council's site selection public consultation process in February 2015 the Council received 912 letters supporting the school remain in Uppermill, 154 supporting the move to Diggle and 28 who were neutral. [Information provided by Cllr Amanda Chadderton in response to a public question at the full Council meeting on the 01/04/2015]
- FACT: During the individual school planning application consultation process beginning in August 2015, the Council received 661 objection letters and 9 letters of support. [Planning Officers Report 13/04/2016 9.12 page 90 and 9.14 page 96]
- FACT: During the planning application consultation process for the four combined planning applications beginning the 23rd December 2015, the Council received a further 1339 objection letters and 26 letters of support. [Planning Officers Report 13/04/2016 9.8 page 76 and 9.11 page 89]
- FACT: Oldham Council only received a total of 35 letters in support for the Diggle planning applications whilst a record 2000 objection letters were received opposing the scheme.
Our costly legal challenge would have been impossible without the financial support of so many local people, and who also gave us their unwavering moral support to take this matter all the way to the High Court.
Thank you for having so much faith in us and our legal team.
We must stress our utmost thanks to our legal team Robert McCracken QC and Alastair Wallace, from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who have shepherded us through the legal tangle and stress of this campaign, your patience and judgements have always been right.
It was our last chance in this long process to challenge what we and our many supporters believed was a flawed site selection process and the unlawful approval of the four planning applications for Diggle.
The High Court's judgement has now validated the arguments that SDAG have been putting forward for the last 3 years - that the new Saddleworth School could and should be built in Uppermill.
The previous flawed site selection process and unlawful approach of the Council has led to an unnecessary delay in the provision of a much needed new school for Saddleworth.
The long held SDAG argument that the Uppermill site is a viable alternative which would attract the EFA's full funding has been upheld by the judge and in turn must now be acknowledged by Oldham Council.
Escalating costs to support the building of the school in Diggle
At Oldham Council's Cabinet Budget meeting last month (20/02/2017), it was admitted that there may not be sufficient funds allocated in Oldham Council's budget (allocated from the future land swap capital receipt) to support the building of the new Saddleworth School in Diggle. [Appendix 1 Capital Strategy 2017/18 to 2020/21 pages 9 and 32-33].
This now means that Oldham Council would have to allocate further funds from their own capital reserves, over and above the land swap capital receipt, in order to fund the building of the new school in Diggle.
This now strengthens the case to justify building the new school in Uppermill, which already has all the necessary infrastructure required to support a school of this size, together with much smaller support costs to Oldham Council, when compared with Diggle.
This extra funding requirement, does not take into account the additional annual public funding required for additional transport costs, in the region of £200,000 every year [Saddleworth School site selection report of 30/03/2015 5.13 page 16], required for both extra local and dedicated school buses, should the school move to Diggle. This annual cost will rise in the coming years due to inflation and rising fuel costs and will wipe out any previous misguidedly perceived "value for money" savings the move to Diggle may have had.
As it is clear that Oldham Council is currently struggling to fund basic social services, shouldn't an unnecessary annually incurred cost to the taxpayer of this magnitude be viewed as a major disadvantage to site the new school in Diggle.
This is now an appropriate time for Oldham Council, with all the facts now placed before them:-
- To re-evaluate the site selection of the new Saddleworth School.
- To listen to the concerns and wishes of the thousands of Saddleworth people who consider the best site for the school is on its existing site in Uppermill.
To prevent any further unnecessary delays, we ask Oldham Council to now choose the Uppermill Playing Field site option for the new Saddleworth School as soon as possible, which allows for the new school to be built along side the existing school, causing minimal disruption, and request the withdrawal of the four Diggle planning applications.
We should now all work together to urgently achieve a new school on the Uppermill site, which both safeguards our heritage and is best for the whole of Saddleworth.
Let's get on with building a new school at Uppermill.
STOP THIS FROM COMING TO DIGGLE
This image of the playing fields at Mossley Hollins High School was taken from
a distance of 850 yards (770 metres) from the nearest light.
Houses on Huddersfield Road in Diggle will be just 100 yards (91
from the proposed playing fields and floodlighting, if the school moves to Diggle.
SDAG's campaign has always been in favour of a new school for Saddleworth, but that it can and should be built in Uppermill
29th September 2016
We write in order to correct some inaccurate statements concerning Save Diggle Action Group and its intentions in seeking Judicial Review of the decision to grant planning permission for the construction of a new school at Diggle.
SDAG's position has always been that we accept the need for a new secondary school in Saddleworth. SDAG members have children and grandchildren who attend Saddleworth School and fully share the concern to provide buildings that will inspire future generations of our children and foster an environment in which they can receive an excellent education. Our campaign has never been to delay or prevent the construction of a new school, it has always been about the location of the school.
Since October 2013 we have argued that the school can and should be built on the current site in Uppermill. The Educational Funding Agency (EFA) indicated in the feasibility study conducted in 2014 that this was a viable site for the school and that it could be built within their budget. Their preferred site was Diggle because it would be cheaper to build there. In a meeting with SDAG representatives they confirmed that the school could be built at Uppermill and that it was OMBC's decision to select a site for the school.
Despite the fact that a poll in an independent news site revealed that 78% of people in Saddleworth wanted the school to remain in Uppermill; that a petition with over 3,000 signatures calling for it to remain in Uppermill was presented to OMBC (the largest in its history); and that 1,332 letters of objection were submitted against the application to relocate the school in Diggle (with only 26 in favour) OMBC has failed to listen to its electors and persists in seeking to move the school to land in the greenbelt, on a floodplain, with access down a narrow road which is virtually a cul-de-sac. If the school is relocated here there will also be substantial damage to the nationally important historic Dobcross Loom Works building.
For three years SDAG has pointed out the flaws in the Council's proposals and our views have been ignored by our political representatives. A judge has now heard the arguments and feels that there is sufficient evidence to allow a full Judicial Review hearing. It should be noted that success at this first stage of an application for Judicial Review isn't common or easy, the judgement demonstrates that OMBC have serious questions to answer about their handling of this entire process. This has been costly for SDAG in time, effort and money but we have had to take the route of legal action because we could find no other way to receive a fair and just hearing. We could not have proceeded without the fantastic moral and financial support of members of the Saddleworth community or the forensic brilliance of our legal team.
It is quite clear that there are members of the Saddleworth community who simply want a new school as soon as possible. We understand their frustration but would point out that the school could have been built by now if the Council had properly examined the option of siting it in Uppermill, where most people want it to remain. SDAG and our supporters have serious concerns about the hazard to children represented by the ill-considered road scheme that is proposed for Diggle. We don’t want to see children sharing a narrow roadway with buses and cars, or trying to cross in front of vehicles leaving a car-park and drop-off zone, as envisaged in the Council's proposals. Nor do we want to see development of the greenbelt and harm to a listed building, protected species and the Saddleworth landscape.
High Courts of Justice grant SDAG the right to a full Judicial Review
22nd September 2016:
Today, in a hearing lasting more than three hours, Mr Robert McCracken QC presented our case to the Right Honourable Justice Lang at the High Courts of Justice in London alongside Oldham Council's barrister.
After hearing all the evidence the Rt Hon Justice Lang granted SDAG the right to proceed to a full Judicial Review in January 2017.
Oldham Council employed a leading silk to defend today's hearing but the court found in our favour. This is a well-earned victory after preparing such a strong legal argument against the decision by Oldham Council to relocate the new school in Diggle, instead of rebuilding on its existing site in Uppermill.
Response to Cllr Brian Lord's inaccurate letter to parents
5th May 2016:
Parents of children at Saddleworth School have recently been sent a letter from Cllr Brian Lord as Chair of the School Governors, on behalf of the Governing Body of Saddleworth School.
Parents have complained to SDAG of its bi-partisan inaccuracies.
Cllr Keith Lucas MBE has written, in his capacity as SDAG Chair and a local Saddleworth Parish Councillor, to Cllr Lord correcting his misunderstanding of SDAG's position and various factual inaccuracies.
From his letter it is clear that Cllr Lord is, after nearly three years, still struggling with the basic argument that SDAG is fighting for the correct location of the new Saddleworth School. It is not about whether or not Saddleworth should have a new school. We are all agreed on that, which is why his claim that the judicial review is all about causing unnecessary delay shows his failure to grasp what our campaign is all about.
Instead he continues to perpetuate the now discredited Lib Dem myth that the choice is between a new school in Diggle or no new school at all.
See the full exchange of correspondence below:
Next Stop - Judicial Review
26th April 2016:
We have had an overwhelming response from the community in response to our recent leaflet, outlining our reasons why we believe residents could WIN a judicial review over Oldham Council's approval of the four planning applications to built the new Saddleworth School in Diggle, when they can build the school on the existing site in Uppermill, why Oldham Council would have to refuse the applications after a successful challenge and requesting your financial contributions to make this challenge a reality.
Such was the response in a matter of days, and the outpouring of support to keep on fighting, we have instructed Irwin Mitchell Solicitors to begin judicial review proceedings.
The Council have brought this situation upon themselves and it is a sad reflection on the democratic process when the electorate are forced to take their elected Council to court, due to its constant refusal to listen to their wishes and refusal to show any regard in the preservation of Saddleworth's heritage and rural village landscape.
If they had done so, then Saddleworth would have its new school by now in Uppermill and without the massive harm to the local environment that the current plans would inflict.
Judical review is a costly matter, but one we believe we can win. Should we do so, Oldham Council will have to reimburse the majority of our costs back to us, which we can then return back to those members of the community which helped fund this fight on a pro-rata basis.
We still need more money to fund this fight on behalf of the community.
Help stop this wanton destruction of Saddleworth's local environment and imposed traffic chaos.
Together we can stop this lunacy and make OMBC finally listen to the people of Saddleworth.
Please don't leave it to your neighbour. Act now and please contact Keith Lucas MBE at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07545 939724.
Every contribution matters. Just give what you can afford.
What we have achieved so far:
- Made the Education Funding Agency consider the Uppermill site within their feasibility study, which subsequently did not rule out the Uppermill site as a location for the new Saddleworth School.
- Stopped the land owner from just demolishing the buildings on the Diggle site in June 2015.
- Forced Oldham Council to stop the unlawful separation of planning applications being determined at different times.
- Forced Oldham Council to require the applicant's Environmental Impact Assessment to assess the impacts of the whole project, including the demolition, which they had previously omitted.
- Forced Oldham Council to re-decide the planning applications a second time due to flawed processes in their planning report.
**** THE FIGHT STILL CONTINUES ****
14th April 2016:
Well it came as no surprise to SDAG that once again Oldham Council passed the plans for the new Saddleworth School in Diggle, despite receiving 1332 letters of objection with only 26 in support.
Last night was deja-vu at the second Oldham Council Planning Meeting for these controversial planning applications to build the new 1500 pupil Saddleworth School in the small village of Diggle, which itself only has just over 1700 residents.
Once again OMBC's Planning Committee approved all four planning applications.
And once again Irwin Mitchell, the solicitors representing SDAG, sent a letter to OMBC, expressing further legal flaws with Mr Stephen Irvine's (Head of Planning) revised planning report.
Read Irwin Mitchell's letter in full.
Our barrister, Mr Robert McCracken QC of Francis Taylor Buildings, London, who is one of the country's foremost environmental and planning lawyers, believes that we have a strong case to overturn yesterday's Planning Committee's decision at Judicial Review, with a ruling in our favour, which would subsequently see these planning applications either refused or withdrawn.
With your support we can continue the fight and get the new Saddleworth School built on the existing site in Uppermill, without harming Saddleworth's historic and natural environment and preventing the ludicrous highway proposals which will inevitable cause substantial traffic chaos around Diggle, Dobcross and the surrounding areas.
Please pledge your support now by contacting Keith Lucas MBE at email@example.com or phoning by 07545 939724.
Flawed site selection process
There is a strong legal duty on local authorities, when considering planning applications, to do NO HARM WHATSOEVER to any listed building. This requires the relevant consideration of the availability of alternative sites on which this harm can be avoided, in this case the two available options on the existing Uppermill site.
There is a specific concern with respect to the site selection process, as the impact of damage to the heritage assets was never considered by either the EFA or Oldham Council at this stage. In fact there was no heritage assessment prepared as part of the EFA's feasibility study to consider these impacts.
The EFA appears to have ignored any heritage issues entirely, as the listed clock tower building was outside their site boundary.
Oldham Council were also of the opinion that the school would improve the setting of the listed clock tower building and their response was to defer any decision on the impact to its setting until the planning application stage, rather than at the site selection stage. See (Oldham Council's Saddleworth School Site Selection document to Cabinet - 30th March 2015)
It makes you ask the following questions:
- Why was there no heritage assessment commissioned as part of the EFA's feasibility study?
- Why does the EFA's feasibility study totally ignore the harmful impact of the two options in Diggle to the listed clock tower building (which is of national importance) just because it is outside their site boundaries?
- Why was Oldham Council officers' of the opinion that the new school would improve the setting of the listed clock tower building, when there was no proper evidence to back up this claim?
- Why did Oldham Council not adequately scrutinise the EFA's feasibility study findings to ensure that all relevant considerations had been taken into account, before accepting their findings? They were within their rights to approve one of the other three options instead, as the site for the new school.
- Why was Oldham Council's response to residents' concerns about the harmful impact to the listed clock tower building that this would be dealt with at the planning application stage rather than dealing with this issue at the site selection stage?
After pressure from Irwin Mitchell's first letter to the Council, the Council had to acknowledge that these planning applications will substantially harm the listed clock tower building and harm the other listed building which surround the site.
In fact, at the meeting, Mr Alan Evans, the Council's Group Solicitor, acknowledged that heritage had not been a consideration in the EFA's feasibility study. However, he went on to consider what the outcome of the EFA's feasibility study would have been if a new heritage criteria was added to the EFA's Feasibility Options Review Matrix. He decided that at best the Diggle Pallet Works site would still be the most appropriate site. At worst it would be equal with the Diggle Green Field site, but the Diggle Pallet Works site would still be the most appropriate due to it being cheaper.
It appears, Mr Evans, who is a legal professional, just followed the EFA's principle by giving the heritage issues a simple ranking between the sites, but has ignored his legal duty to give "considerable importance and weight" to the harm to the listed buildings for each site option. If this were to be done, then this new heritage criteria would trump all of the other criterias. Making one of the two Uppermill site options the preferred choice, as they would avoid any harm to both the listed buildings and the Green Belt.
Mr Irvine's report has a substantial legal flaw. His believes that both he and the planning committee's decision should be taken on the applications own merits on the Diggle site in question and does not need to take into account any other sites where the school could be built. There is now also the seemingly dubious advice from Mr Evans, whereby he shoe-horns in the missing heritage criteria after the fact to justify the the EFA's feasibility study's preferred site option, without giving the substantial weight to the harm to the listed building, which we strongly believe it is legally due.
It is the Council's statutory duty to refuse the applications if there is the possibility of the development using an alternative site to achieve the substantial public benefits of a new school.
Background to the barristers involved in this case
Here is what the Chambers UK guide says about both our barrister, Mr Robert McCracken QC at Francis Taylor Building in London, and the Council's barrister, Mr David Manley QC of Kings Chambers in Manchester, whose name was mentioned by Mr Evans during the planning meeting:
Mr Robert McCracken QC:
Regularly instructed by regulators, multinational corporations and community groups in complex, high stakes litigation. He is especially good on the EU aspects of environmental law.
Strengths: "He is at the top of his game and at the hub of environmental law in this country."
The Chambers Francis Taylor Building (FTB) has a long-standing reputation for excellence in providing advocacy and advisory services. FTB is consistently featured as a leading set in the independent legal directories for its expertise and leading role in planning, land valuation, infrastructure, environmental, public law, regulatory law and licensing. Its position at the forefront of these areas of law is evidenced by members consistently appearing in many of the leading cases. Members of chambers appear in courts at all levels in this country and abroad, including specialist tribunals and public inquiries and undertake specialist advisory work. The set owes its long-standing reputation for excellence to its wide range of clients, the major projects it handles and the number and quality of its practitioners. They are also supported by a highly motivated and professional team of clerks, led by Paul Coveney as Senior Clerk.
Mr David Manley QC
A silk with a broad planning and environmental practice. Areas of expertise include renewable energy, waste and common land.
Strengths: "He is absolutely excellent to work with. He delivers the goods." "He is top-draw, one of the best."
Recent work: Instructed in relation to a proposed biomass plant in Llangefni, in Anglesey. This matter raised a number of issues, including highway access and landscape impacts.
The Chambers Kings Chambers is ranked one of the country’s leading sets. It provides barristers with the highest reputation for advocacy, knowledge and standards to service.
SECOND PLANNING MEETING
Wednesday 13th April 2016 at 6pm
Wednesday 13th April 2016 at 6pm
OMBC will again put forward the Saddleworth School planning application. This is after OMBC's Head of Planning, Mr Stephen Irwine, and its legal team rejected our legal challenge the Mr Irvine's report was unlawful. The credibility of their planning and legal teams' advice was totally discredited when OMBC took further legal advice and accepted the SDAg challenge was correct. Hence the climb down and fresh planning officer's report.this advice.
Mr Irvine's revised report link:
SO HERE WE ARE AGAIN: As we suspected they have completely rejected local concerns and are not taking into account public written objections against the planning application which stood at 1332 public letters objecting to the planning applications with only 26 in support. Also the new planning officers report has nearly doubled in length and they only made the revised plans available to the public on the 6th April 2016.
So its the same old OMBC mantra - bulldoze it through without taking into account massive local concerns.
**** THE FIGHT CONTINUES ****
27th February 2016:
Well it came as no surprise to SDAG that Oldham Council passed the plans for the new Saddleworth School in Diggle, despite receiving 1332 letters of objection with only 26 in support.
The reality is that this decision had really been made years ago and with evidence subsequently supplied to us from another residents' group, it is clear that this Council will act in any way it sees fit to achieve its objectives. Residents' views count for nothing, which makes a mockery of the democratic system in Oldham.
Nor was it surprising that some arguments put forward in objection letters outlining where this development contravenes the policies within Oldham Council's Local Plan have been totally ignored within the planning officer's report.
It is the view of Mr Stephen Irvine, Head of Planning, in his report to the Planning Committee, that any harm to Heritage Assets (both designated and non-designated), Green Belt, Ecology, Noise and Light Pollution, Landscape Character and Visual Amenity are all outweighed by the public benefits of having a new school and that although there will be an impact on the transport infrastructure, in his view this will not be "severe". He also totally rejects any impact on flooding either on site or down stream in Uppermill.
He also states "It is not a principle objective of the planning process to assess whether or not a new school should be developed on the current site in Uppermill." However, there are certain tests in the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Guidance from Historic England which puts forward the "mitigation hierarchy" with respect to both heritage assets and ecology. Consequently it is a material planning consideration that if a development can avoid the harmful impacts by using an alternative site, then this should be pursued before any mitigation measures are considered on a site which would result in harm.
Oldham Council's Head of Planning has totally ignored these planning requirements.
It has become clear that, as many suspected, Mr Irvine used the public meeting hosted by the Saddleworth Parish Council on the 2nd February 2016 as nothing more than a PR exercise designed to appear to be listening to the residents. He undertook to provide answers to the many questions he was unable to answer at the time but failed to deliver these promised answers.
As Chairman, this must leave Cllr Neil Allsopp feeling somewhat embarrassed, as he had clearly been used by the Head of Planning in this charade.
Prior to Thursday's planning meeting, SDAG obtained a legal opinion from Mr Robert McCracken QC, one of the country's leading environmental and planning barristers, on the legality of Mr Irvine's report. It was his expert opinion that the wrong National Planning Policy Framework test was used with respect to the demolition of the buildings and therefore the importance of the setting of the Grade II listed Dobcross Loom Works Clock Tower building had not been correctly taken into account.
On our behalf, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors sent this legal opinion to Mr Irvine on Thursday, advising him that in their view should the Planning Committee grant approval for the demolition of the buildings on the basis of the advice of this planning officer's report, it would be acting unlawfully. As the other applications are also bound up with the demolition of the buildings, any approval to these other applications would also be unlawful.
Irwin Mitchell Solicitors invited Oldham Council to adjourn the meeting and defer their determination pending consideration of this legal opinion, but should the Planning Committee approve the demolition application, then a judicial review will be sought.
Oldham's Group Solicitor, Mr Alan Evans, responded to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors with a one sentence reply: "The Council has considered the contents of your letter and write to confirm that the Planning Committee will not be requested to defer consideration of any of the applications before them at tonight's meeting."
At the beginning of the meeting Mr Evans told the Committee about the letter received from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, but that it was the Council Officers' view that the correct National Planning Policy Framework test had been used and therefore the Borough Solicitor advised that determination of the four planning applications would be legal.
Mr Mark Brooks, Chairman of the Diggle Community Association, who spoke against each of the four planning applications, offered the Committee members copies of Irwin Mitchell's letter for themselves to make their own judgement, but no-one asked to see it. Instead they relied on the guidance of Mr Evans.
From the plans and presentation that Mr Irvine presented to the Committee it is abundantly clear that the much-loved Grade II listed Clock Tower building will be unusable in the future, so we can only assume it will be allowed to fall into further disrepair. The justification for its demolition must surely follow.
As the Planning Committee has now approved these four planning applications, which in the expert opinion of our legal council, Mr Robert McCracken QC, is unlawful, we feel that we have a strong case to seek a judicial review and overturn these decisions to prevent Oldham Council from needlessly destroying Saddleworth's environment and heritage.
With your support we can continue the fight.
PUBLIC MEETING TO DISCUSS SADDLEWORTH SCHOOL
TO BE HELD AT CIVIC CENTRE, PARISH COUNCIL,
LEE STREET, UPPERMILL ON
TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY 2016 AT 7.00PM
TO BE HELD AT CIVIC CENTRE, PARISH COUNCIL,
LEE STREET, UPPERMILL ON
TUESDAY 2ND FEBRUARY 2016 AT 7.00PM
21st January 2016:
There has been an announcement of a Special Extraordinary Public Meeting called by Saddleworth Parish Council for the 2nd February 2016 at 7.00pm, to discuss the Saddleworth School Planning Applications.
Mr Stephen Irvine, OMBC Head of Planning & Infrastructure, will do a presentation and then will open the meeting for public questions.
Please attend if you can. This will be your only chance to directly get your views across in person, to a senior member of OMBC. He wants to hear your views before the plans go for determination at Oldham Council's Special Planning Committee meeting on the 25th February 2016.
GET YOUR VOICE HEARD. PLEASE ATTEND IF YOU CAN.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS
Saddleworth School Planning Applications - The Last Chance To Act
17th January 2016:
We are now within the public consultation period for the four planning applications which make up the Saddleworth School project.
- PA/337301/15: Construction of a new Saddleworth School (for ages 11 to 16) with associated sports fields and pitches, external recreation and teaching space together with parking landscaping and associated works.
- PA/337931/15: Demolition of 5 no. buildings.
- LB/337929/15: Demolition of the link bridge connected to the listed office building.
- PA/337930/15: New car park drop-off facility, residents' parking area and associated highway works.
PLEASE NOTE: All previous objections submitted under PA/337301/15 as part of the 1st public consultation WILL NOT apply to the new three planning applications.
If you have objected already and you want to ensure that your voice is heard then the only way to do this is to submit further objections to the other three planning applications. (Two for the demolition and one for the highway works.) Or use our template objection letter.
A special meeting of the Oldham Council Planning Committee will be held just to decide these applications on Thursday 25th February 2016 at 6.00pm
The statutory consultation date has been extended to the 31st January 2016, but we have been told by Oldham Planning Department that objections can be sent in up to the 24th February 2016. We have been told that the Planning Officer will produce his report and recommendation to the Planning Committee about two weeks before the committee date, so to be sure that your objections are taken into account by the Planning Officer they will need to be received by 10th February 2016.
Extra Saddleworth School Highways Scheme Public Drop-in Event
Tuesday 15th December 2015
3pm to 8.30pm
at Diggle Band Club
Tuesday 15th December 2015
3pm to 8.30pm
at Diggle Band Club
13th December 2015:
After mass critisim and a letter signed by almost 100 residents, Oldham Council have confirmed an extra date for the drop in event at Diggle Band Club on Tuesday 15th December from 3pm – 8.30pm to again allow the public to view the latest plans for the highways scheme for Saddleworth School.
Oldham Council have also updated their website to include the new highway scheme proposals, although they do not give you access to the new plans.
However, SDAG believe that everyone should be able to view the new proposed highway scheme plans, whether they can get to the drop-in event or not.
Please also note that there is a proposal to change the priority on the Huddersfield Road/Standedge Road junction (although this is not shown on the plans, as it is deemed outside the planning application boundary), which will just encourage more cars to drive through Diggle, than to continue on the A670.
Whether you are for or against the school coming to Diggle, these highway changes will effect all the residents and businesses in Diggle and the surrounding area.
We urge EVERYONE to view the proposed plans and ask questions prior to the submission of the planning application before Christmas.
From last Thursday's event it appears that the consensus of both the pro and anti Diggle camps is that these highway proposals are unworkable.
Here is a conversation between a Diggle resident and a Unity Partnership officer from last Thursday's event:
Q: Why is the wall by the school entrance to be removed and replaced with a fence and not a wall?
A: A cost cutting exercise
Q: How will people in the planned single lane controlled traffic light restricted access terraces and more particularly across the road move house if they need a pantechnicon to be parked outside their house for several hours, or a builder's skip for several days/weeks?
A: They will apply in advance for a licence to block the pavement
(I think he's wrong there, they would be refused a skip permit, though a temporary removal van might be OK)
Q: What about emergency vehicles?
A: They can and will block the road without a permit
Q: What about unscheduled deliveries by men in vans who have no clue beforehand that they can't park and deliver?
A: Don't know
Q: Why is there no turning head at the end of the access track planned for off road parking for residents in the terrace?
A: Not needed for cars as they will turn into their space, back out and drive out again
Q: What if it's full?
A: They will have to back out all the way
Q: What about vans and wagons too big to turn and with no banksman to reverse them?
A: They shouldn't be there
Q: So it's better that they block the main road to make unscheduled deliveries because you won't/can't afford a turnaround?
Q: Is a car park etc an acceptable use of land in the green belt?
A: Don't know
Q: Have you done a computer model to show how the traffic will back up at the new lights?
A: Yes, with vehicles coming from the Uppermill end, and traffic won't back up as far as Standedge Road
Q: What is the traffic flow?
A: 300 per hour in that direction
Q: Don't you mean 250 in 10 mins just before school starts?
A: Our model is based on an even flow over the hour
Q: Isn't that naïve?
A: Mumble mumble mumble
Q: Are you going to have a box junction at the Standedge Road junction?
A: The model says it won't be needed. If it's a problem doubtless it will be considered later, but my job is to get this approved and then think about the consequences later
Q: What about the other direction ie from Diggle and parents coming back from drop off?
A: Don't know
Q: Do you know how many people live in Diggle and drive to work?
Q: Have you modelled waiting times/queues in that direction?
A: Can't remember
Q: What about rat run problems on Spurn Lane, Ward Lane and Carr Lane?
A: We'll think about that when we have approval for this scheme. No need to anticipate problems of that nature at this stage as it's not part of this application
Q: You have done your best to solve an insoluble problem haven't you?
Q: It's not good enough is it? I don't expect you to answer that.
A: (no response)
Q: Do you really think that applications for major highway proposals can be approved without considering the consequences elsewhere?
A: mumble mumble mumble
Q: Is that the usual procedure?
Q: So your brief is to get the plans approved and then pick up the pieces as a separate exercise afterwards, even though you are aware that there will be many and varied implications on a more or less disastrous scale, and which cannot be satisfactorily resolved?
Further comments made by the OMBC officer and the Unity Partnership officers on Thursday were:
- "There will be an 'unofficial' route to school down the canal, which we expect to be used by a lot of pupils."
- "There is no cycle lane facility - We believe cycling to school will not be encouraged."
- "We believe a 220 seconds phasing will apply on the traffic lights."
- "There will be just 15 spaces for parents to wait to pick up at the new turnaround."
- "We know at least 100 parents in cars wait in Uppermill at the moment."
- "We believe that a lot of parents travelling from Greenfield and Uppermill will access the school using Ward Lane."
Saddleworth School Highways Scheme Public Drop-in Event
Thursday 10th December 2015
3pm to 7.30pm
at Kiln Green Church, Diggle
Thursday 10th December 2015
3pm to 7.30pm
at Kiln Green Church, Diggle
6th December 2015:
Oldham Council have confirmed that they are going to hold a drop in event at Kiln Green Church, Diggle on Thursday 10th December from 3pm – 7.30pm to allow the public to view the latest plans for the highways scheme for Saddleworth School.
The drop in is an information event where the public can view the design prior to the submission of the planning application. Council Officers can respond to questions and explain why the design has considerably changed since the public consultation held in May/June this year.
We believe the plan will propose a controlled traffic light system that will affectively be a permanent "toll gate" traffic system that will affect every resident and business in Diggle, as well as surrounding areas 24hrs a day and 52 weeks of the year.
Also believed to be proposed is a parental drop-off area in the field off Huddersfield Road between the row of houses (20-44) and the public footpath. This is contrary to Oldham Council's previous suggestion in the summer consultation, that their aim was to discourage as much school traffic as possible from entering Diggle.
The statutory consultation for the new planning application is expected to run for 21 days starting during the week commencing 21st December 2015.
This is contrary to Oldham Council's recent press release which stated: "The timing of the 21-day public consultation will be managed to ensure the Christmas break does not impact on the public's ability to comment."
Saddleworth School Planning Application suspended for the moment
15th October 2015:
Oldham Council has issued an update on the next steps in the planning process for the proposed new Saddleworth School.
A structured approach is being taken in order to ensure that the four planning applications related to this one project are considered as one scheme.
The project is made up of four separate applications which are to:
- A) Build the new school on the WH Shaw Pallets site in Diggle;
- B) Demolish existing buildings on the WH Shaw site;
- C) Demolish the link bridge attached to the Grade II listed building on the WH Shaw site;
- D) Provide a parental drop off area plus residential car parking as part of the wider highways scheme in Diggle.
A new Environment Statement which covers the entire project is now being prepared to cover all four applications.
That means that a new 21-day statutory consultation will take place enabling the public to comment on the demolition, listed building and parental drop-off applications (B, C and D above).
Issuing the new Environmental Statement means the public will also be able to comment again on the school application (A) during that time. Any comments already received by the Planning Department will still be taken into consideration and do not need to be resubmitted.
Local residents in the vicinity of the WH Shaw site will receive a letter informing them when the new 21-day consultation starts. Oldham Council will also publicise this through local media and its other communications channels.
Saddleworth School planning application available for comment but Oldham Council fails in its duty to our heritage assets
9th August 2015:
The Saddleworth School planning application is now available for comment.
However, it appears that Oldham Council have ignored requests made by Historic England, the Canal and Rivers Trust and Oldham Council's own Conservation Officer that the impact of the demolition of the Dobcross Loom Works buildings should be included in the Environmental Statement for the school planning application.
According to the Conservation Officer, the Dobcross Loom Works complex of buildings should also be considered as a non-designated heritage asset in its own right.
By Oldham Council not requiring the impact of the demolition of this heritage asset be included in the Environmental Statement for the school planning application, they are failing in their duty to protect and conserve our borough's heritage assets.
Plans released for school and highway improvements
26th May 2015:
There is now a four week period of consultation until the 23rd June 2015, before the planning application will be submitted.
Response to OMBC approve Diggle as site for new Saddleworth School
31st March 2015:
As expected the Cabinet Meeting last night approved the Shaw's Pallet Works site (or "rear site") in Diggle as the location for the new Saddleworth School. Once again ignoring the views and concerns of a large number of Saddleworth residents.
Keith Lucas, speaking on behalf of the Save Diggle Action Group said: "Contrary to these claims and reports, the decision of OMBC's cabinet that their choice of site for the school is to be the 'back-land' at Diggle is not the end of the story. It is not inevitable that the school will be built there.
"OMBC will first have to secure planning permission for the highways works they will need to undertake (for which they seem to have no clear plans as yet).
"Interserve, the developer will also have to submit a very detailed planning application for the development of the Diggle site. SDAG, working with leading planning and environmental barrister Robert McCracken QC, will be scrutinising every aspect of the planning application. There are significant legal, environmental, ecological, transportation and infrastructure issues which, as their most recent report reveals, OMBC has not yet even considered. Securing planning for this project will not be straight forward.
"We will be holding OMBC and Interserve to account at every twist and turn of the planning process.
"We've been told again and again that 'this is the end of SDAG' or 'it's all a done deal, the school will be in Diggle now' but we have never been distracted by these claims. This is not the beginning of the end, it's the end of the beginning: our fight goes on."
Response to OMBC Saddleworth School Consultation
30th March 2015:
Tonight's Cabinet Meeting will confirm what we already know. That Cabinet members will give final confirmation for the chosen site as Shaw's Pallet works in Diggle.
OMBC's Cabinet members will today give final confirmation of the choice of site for the new Saddleworth School. Their decision will be guided by a report which recommends that members agree to the selection of the Shaw's Pallet Works site in Diggle as the site for the school.
SDAG's view is that the report is biased, incomplete, disingenuous and inaccurate and that any decision based on it will be faulty. Why do we think this?
Consultation and Engagement
The document repeatedly seeks to give the impression that the Council has initiated and facilitated public debate on the selection of a site.
This is wholly inaccurate.
Two public meetings were held on 25th September 2013 and 16th October 2013. Those attending were given an unequivocal message that the site at the front of the former Pallet Works at Diggle was the only realistic option. They were also warned extended public discussion about the site threatened to jeopardise the entire project, as there was a danger that funding would be withdrawn.
The Leader of the Council, Chief Executive, the Cabinet member for Education and Senior Officers have not attended any public forum in Saddleworth on the issue since the Autumn of 2013.
Neither the Leader of the Council nor the Cabinet Member for Education has responded to repeated invitations to attend Diggle Community Association meetings.
Astonishingly, the report lists emails and letters from the public, freedom of information requests and a petition as evidence of "mechanisms" which have "enabled a wide range of issues and concerns to be raised by members of the public".
SDAG and its supporters know full well that we have had to resort to these "mechanisms" precisely because the Council has completely failed to engage directly with the public's concerns or provide answers to questions that we have raised.
The "debate" in response to SDAG's petition on 4th February 2015 was triggered by the unprecedented number of signatories; members of the council determined at their meeting to reject it and proceed with their "preferred option" despite the opinion expressed in the petition and the open opposition from members of the public in attendance at the meeting.
The School's Technical Group is also cited, a body that is dominated by school governors publicly committed to siting the school at Diggle, which the DCA Chair, the only representative of public opinion in Diggle, had to demand inclusion on after it had been constituted. This is not the record of a listening Council.
In February of this year, after virtual silence punctuated by occasional dismissive and high-handed press releases, the Council finally provided the public with an opportunity to express a view on the choice of site for the school. The report claims that, after the release of the EFA's feasibility study report in January 2015, the "Council considered that this was an appropriate point at which to give the public a final opportunity to express their views and opinions before making a decision on the site for the new school".
This has, in fact, been the ONLY opportunity for the public to express a view provided by the Council and we must not allow them to pretend otherwise. They gave a period of one month for the public to express their views and within days had prepared a digest of these with responses. Proper consultation should take place over time, should involve reflection and review and produce a considered response.
What OMBC have provided in response to the public's views is a reiteration of their existing position together with repeated but unsubstantiated assertions that issues will be dealt with either through the planning process or after the school is operational.
This is not a proper consultation.
It is a box-ticking exercise designed to deflect criticism of the Council's disastrous handling of the whole school issue.
Key issues arising from the consultation the Report Fails to Address
- Traffic congestion, safety, pollution: The report refers either to existing responses (FAQs), to the School Travel Plan, to a Travel Assessment or to the planning process as ways to resolve these but does not provide any meaningful answer to public concerns or propose any solutions to the problems it accepts exist in relation to pedestrian access outside the immediate vicinity of the school. The report states that "the school travel plan will seek to encourage as many pupils as possible to use public transport, or walk or cycle where appropriate" in order to reduce emissions failing to recognise that the siting of the school in Diggle will make this more difficult for more pupils.
- Impact of traffic on neighbouring villages: astonishingly the Report states that "the Council will… monitor changes to traffic flows in the surrounding areas once the school is in operation and will identify any further measures required".
- Landscape and environment: there is no real recognition or understanding of arguments about the detrimental impact of the school on the Diggle valley, apart from the statement that the Pallet Works is derelict and unsightly. There is no acknowledgement or understanding of the place of the development in the landscape; no recognition of possible impacts on a Peak District National Park and little recognition of the impact on the historic canal setting (apart from a recognition of the need to inform the Canal and Rivers Trust of a planning application).
- Ecology: the report suggests that existing reports conducted under the EFA's feasibility study are adequate to address these issues (these are incomplete and in some respects inaccurate or inadequate). Astonishingly, the report suggests that the Council might well choose to ignore the opinion of the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit that the site should be designated as a Site of Biological Importance and that a "management plan" would be sufficient to address concerns about bats and breeding birds.
- Flood risk: the report suggests (again) that reports in the feasibility study are adequate, although these do not address the vital issue of flooding down-stream as a consequence of loss of the Diggle Brook floodplain. It is clear that no consultation with the Environment Agency has been undertaken by either the EFA or the Council as yet, despite the repeated expressions of public concern about this issue.
The Report attempts to deal with public concern by rebutting, rather than engaging with, the points we have raised.
SDAG will continue to raise these issues and we are currently working with advisory bodies and other stakeholders on preparing arguments to oppose the planning application, which the Council anticipate will resolve all their problems.
Oldham Council - Consultation on site selection for Saddleworth School
On the 18th February 2015, Oldham Council requested public views on the site selection for the new Saddleworth School.
A paper will then go before Oldham Council's Cabinet on Monday 30th March 2015, to seek a final decision and approval on the site. Read their full press release.
EFA releases their Feasibility Study
30th January 2015:
On Friday 30th January 2015, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) released their feasibility study to those members of the public who requested access.
The Save Diggle Action Group believes that all the residents of Saddleworth and beyond, should be able to read their study, so here it is.
EFA confirms to residents that new Saddleworth School would be built in Uppermill, if requested by Oldham Council
16th January 2015:
On Friday 16th January 2015, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) announced the findings of their feasibility study which looked at four site options. Two on the existing school site in Uppermill and two on the old W H Shaws Pallet Works site in Diggle.
During the day, face-to-face meetings were conducted by Mr Mike Green, Director of Capital of the EFA, together with three of his local colleagues. These included one meeting with Saddleworth North Councillor Nikki Kirkham and Saddleworth Parish Councillors Mike Buckley and Rob Knotts and another meeting with a handful of concerned Diggle residents, who had been in previous communication with Mr Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of the EFA.
No-one was able to actually view their feasibility study at these meetings, as it has not been publicly released.
This is due in the next week or so.
It concluded that ALL four site options are within the EFA's budget and they would be willing to build the new Saddleworth School on ANY of them.
Although the feasibility study suggested a preference for the back site at Diggle, as this was the cheapest option for the EFA's costs, the final decision as to the site of the new Saddleworth School was Oldham Council's and they could have chosen from any of the four site options available.
It was Oldham Council who chose the back site at Diggle as the location of the new Saddleworth School with NO public consultation.
EFA now say that Oldham Council will decide the location of the new Saddleworth School
23rd November 2014:
Leading Saddleworth Independent Councillors and SDAG campaigners travelled to Coventry last Thursday to present a petition signed by over 3,000 Saddleworth residents and other concerned parties to Mr Mike Green, Education Funding Agency (EFA), Director of Capital.
The petition is still active, so please keep signing the online petition.
A 45 minute meeting with Mr Green followed in which he explained that, contrary to impressions given to date, the EFA are only responsible for the feasibility studies, not the final decision on the location of the new school. This is entirely the responsibility of the Local Authority and School Governors. Provided the preferred site is technically feasible and acceptable in cost terms, the EFA will built the school wherever Oldham Council wished.
Mr Green said that there is no fixed budget of £17 million for the project, site specific factors will determine the final costs. If these are acceptable for a particular site the EFA will built the school in the location preferred by Oldham Council.
He also stressed that there was clearly a need for a new school in Saddleworth and the EFA are fully committed to delivering a state of the art school within the existing programme.
Cllr Nikki Kirkham, who handed the petition to Mr Green said "Residents and parents have been mislead by Oldham Council and the major political parties. They have claimed that the decision on the site rests with the EFA, clearly now this is not the case. Oldham Council will make the final decision. It is a disgrace that there has been no consultation with local people on this decision, that they won't speak to us and that they have tried to deflect responsibility for the decision to the EFA. Jim McMahon should be prepared to meet the people of Saddleworth at a public meeting and justify why he wants the school in Diggle."
So this again confirms that the new Saddleworth School could be build in Uppermill by the EFA, contrary to what Cllr Jim McMahon, Oldham Council and the Lib Dem councillors would have you believe.
So it's time now for all of Saddleworth to have a proper debate about where the new school should be built before Oldham Council forces their wishes in building the school onto a flawed site in Diggle.
EFA will NOT withdraw money from new Saddleworth School project
if it is not built in Diggle
if it is not built in Diggle
30th October 2014:
At the end of September 2014 survey work was carried out at Uppermill to seriously evaluate the Uppermill option; survey work that has NEVER before taken place.
Saddleworth Independent Councillors have received a letter from Mr Peter Lauener, EFA chief excecutive, stating "The feasibility study is currently in progress and the information for the Uppermill and Diggle sites is being assembled. The panel will very shortly commence its assessment of the options."
These options include two on the existing site in Uppermill and two on the historic Dobcross Loom Works site in Diggle.
This letter once and for all, knocks on the head the often repeated scare story, by Oldham Council and the local Liberal Democrat Councillors, that if the school does not go to Diggle, the EFA will withdraw from the project and the money for a new school will be lost.
EFA reconsider Uppermill as site for new Saddleworth School
7th June 2014:
Following intense lobbying by the Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG), and growing protests across Saddleworth, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) have decided to reconsider Uppermill as the site of the new Saddleworth School.
Following a meeting with representatives of the EFA, Headteacher, Matthew Milburn announced to the school's technical committee on Thursday that a detailed feasibility study was now underway by the EFA into the best place to build the new school and this study includes the Uppermill site as well as the site at Diggle.
SDAG spokesperson Cllr Mike Buckley said "This is excellent news and it knocks on the head the propaganda issued by Oldham that the move is a done deal. The recent local elections sent a strong message to the powers-that-be that Saddleworth residents regard the school move to Diggle as a great mistake and want to see it remain in Uppermill.
"At last someone is listening to what the people of Saddleworth want.
"The proposed site in Diggle is fraught with planning and technical problems, none of which exist in Uppermill. The plans we put forward for building in Uppermill we believe will also cost less than building in Diggle. These plans were never properly considered, either by Oldham Council or the EFA.
"We will now be contacting the EFA to ask them to look seriously at our proposals."
Education Funding Agency Statement:
"Currently no decision has been reached on this project and more specifically in relation to the location of the new school."
The message from Diggle is loud and clear
Keep Saddleworth School in Uppermill
Welcome to the Save Diggle Action Group website.
The Group was formed to oppose Oldham Council’s flawed proposal to rebuild Saddleworth School on the green fields in the Diggle Valley.
There is a common misconception that the new school will be built on the former pallet works. This is NOT the case. See the Control Option Plan as shown by Oldham Council at the Public Meeting on 16th October 2013.
Although the title of the Group is "Save Diggle" the campaign is much more wide reaching as the proposal, whilst primarily affecting Diggle, also has a major impact on Uppermill and the nature of the Saddleworth area as a whole.
If the proposal goes ahead the area's commercial centre of Uppermill will take yet another knock. It already has had to cope with the recession and the impact from Tescos. If it loses the school and the associated trade it will undoubtedly be detrimental to Uppermill's long term well-being.
Furthermore, Uppermill already has all necessary infrastructure and transport links in place.
From an area viewpoint the development threatens to erode yet another area of greenery. Saddleworth is under constant attack from Oldham Council and any green field is seen as a source of revenue, irrespective of the damage it might do to the nature of the area as a whole.
We strongly believe that the existing school can be rebuilt on the existing site and are campaigning hard to achieve this. In fact it is the norm for new school to be built on their existing sites. Wardle Academy in Rochdale has recently successfully done just that.
The Education Funding Agency have said that they can do this but the preferred site is the Diggle option as it would be easier.
Consequently we believe that Oldham Council's approach to the future of Saddleworth School is driven, not by educational needs, but by financial considerations.
If you share our belief, please join us and help show Oldham Council that their currently unsound and unwelcome proposals for Diggle could be turned into a successful new Saddleworth School on the existing Uppermill site.
This solution would produce the right school in the right location, for the long-term benefit of the whole of Saddleworth.