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
Education Funding Agency confirms to residents that new Saddleworth School would be built in Uppermill,
if requested by Oldham Council
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.
Who decides what
Finally, we now have clarification on who decides what in regards to the location of the new Saddleworth School.
The EFA is simply the Government's agency who allocate the funds and are tasked with providing the best school from an educational design perspective, within a budget, on a site provided by the local authority.
The local authority provides the sites for the EFA to then decide whether it is feasible to build a school on each of those sites, which is within budget and meets the educational and aspirational needs of the school. The EFA is only concerned with the costs to themselves, within the boundary of the proposed school area. So issues of access and local infrastructure are not their concern and are not part of their feasibility study or costings.
Although the feasibility study produced by the EFA will have a preferred option, any of these options which is shown to still be within budget and can produce the necessary educational needs, can be selected by the local authority.
So the final decision on the location of a new school is with the local authority from the pool of feasible site options presented by the EFA.
The EFA DOES NOT impose a site option on the community.
The EFA have confirmed the following:
- Their feasibility study 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.
- If Oldham Council now told them to build the new school on the existing site in Uppermill, then they would build it there. Even though it would cost more from the EFA's point of view, it is still within their overall budget.
- Unfortunately, Oldham Council has decided on the EFA's preferred option which is to build the new school on the back site in Diggle and this is now the option which is being taken forward into the next stage.
- However, the EFA explained that although they are now taking the back site at Diggle option forwards into the next stage, if Oldham Council changed their minds and asked for it to be built on one of the Uppermill options, then the EFA would notify the contractor, Interserve, and design would then shift to the chosen Uppermill option.
- The EFA have had assurances from Oldham Council that they have solutions to address ALL the access issues at Diggle. The Diggle residents told the EFA that the improvements so far announced by Oldham Council will not fully address all the access issues and that despite having had over a year to come up with solutions, they have so far failed to do so.
- A separate highways planning application will have to be submitted by Oldham Council to address any access issues in Diggle, on which local residents must be consulted during the usual planning process.
- This separate highways planning application MUST be approved BEFORE any planning application for the new school can be submitted for Diggle. If it is rejected then the EFA will reconsider the option of building the new school in Uppermill.
- The planning application for the new school in Diggle must meet all the necessary planning requirements and should it be rejected then the EFA will reconsider the option of building the new school in Uppermill.
- The EFA is extremely committed to building a new school in Saddleworth and at no time will they withdraw funding, as has previously been suggested locally. The only risk of this happening is if there is a change of government and the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) is scrapped, otherwise it is business as usual.
- The EFA have had "warm comfort" from Oldham planners that the new school would NOT need to be in natural stone and slate.
- Whilst the EFA appeared to be sensitive to the outward design issue, they mentioned that part of the consultation process could centre around such things as the "colour palette", giving the residents the impression of another Mossley Hollins High School style school being built in the centre of Diggle.
- The EFA said that it would be the responsibility of the contractor, Interserve, to meet any local planning requirements in the design of the building and they would consult with local residents over aspects of the schools outward appearance. Four weeks has been allocated for this.
- Issues surrounding traffic, flooding etc., would be addressed by Interserve during the planning stage. The feasibility study has looked at these areas and considers the sites feasible in these respects. (We will have to wait a little longer to read their conclusions.)
The feasibility study does not take into account any of the additional infrastructure costs for each of the site options, which Oldham Council will be required to cover. So, even though the back site in Diggle is the cheapest option for the EFA's budget, the additional costs that will have to be met by Oldham Council does not mean that it will be the cheapest site overall to the taxpayer.
No-one seems interested in this important consideration.
Oldham Council has already allocated just over £1 million from their highways budget to cover the infrastructure costs that building the new school in Diggle would require. (From their Capital Strategy and Capital Programme 2014/18 report). In this same report almost another £1m has been allocated to support the building of the new school, on the assumption that it was going to be on the front fields in Diggle. (see extract)
If the school was rebuilt on the existing site in Uppermill, then no highway improvements would be required and this £1 million could be used to resurface much needed roads elsewhere in the borough, to help with our pothole crisis.
Where we stand now
Oldham Council's Cabinet, led by Cllr Jim McMahon, has decided to build the new Saddleworth School on the back site in Diggle with NO public consultation.
The EFA are now taking the back site at Diggle option forward into the next stage of the project.
Here are the estimated timescales given to us by the EFA.
- Stage One: Interserve will design the new school (8 to 10 weeks)
- Stage Two: Pre-application consultation by Interserve with local residents (4 weeks)
- Stage Three: Planning application submitted (usual 13 weeks consultation with OMBC)
The Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Jim McMahon, had a recent meeting with Cllr Mike Buckley, before the outcome of the EFA's feasibility study. When asked why he was so set on building the new Saddleworth School in Diggle, said that it was his personal view that he felt that it would produce a better campus there. This is despite the EFA now confirming that a school, fit for purpose, can be built on any of the four site options. When presented with a list of pros and cons against Diggle and for Uppermill, he agreed with them all, but would not change his view away from Diggle.
Despite the EFA confirming that all four site options are feasible, Oldham Council still refuses to respect the wishes of the Saddleworth people, who have expressed their views through a 3000+ signature petition, and at the last local borough election ballot box, to keep THEIR local secondary school in Uppermill.
Instead the electorate has been ignored yet again and they have gone with both the EFA's first choice and Cllr Jim McMahon's personal preference, to build it on the back site in Diggle.
Cllr Jim McMahon appears to be treating Oldham Borough as his personal fiefdom.
You may think that the war is lost, the decision has been made and that there is no going back.
The EFA confirmed, on Friday to the group of residents, that although the back site at Diggle is now being taken forward into the next stage, Oldham Council is still able, at ANY TIME in the following process, to change this decision.
For too long we have been told by both Oldham Council and our local Lib-Dem councillors on both the Parish and Borough Councils that it was "Diggle or no school".
That is now clearly untrue and it is a straight choice between Uppermill and Diggle.
The residents want to keep the school in Uppermill.
We ask that all our local councillors, both Parish and Borough, as well as Ms Debbie Abrahams our MP, will now support the people that they were elected to represent, and lobby the Leader of Oldham Council and his Cabinet to choose Uppermill as the site of the new Saddleworth School.
If you wish the school to remain in Uppermill, please make your views known by writing directly to Cllr Jim McMahon at:
Councillor Jim McMahon
Office of the Leader of the Council,
Phone: 0161 770 4031 or 1201