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
Sign our online petition TODAY

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."

Say NO to OMBC Banner - Not a Done Deal
The message from Diggle is loud and clear


Oldham Council, with the help from the Oldham Evening Chronicle, would like you to believe that the move to Diggle is a "Done Deal".

In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

The land in Diggle will not be purchased from the local housing developer consortium until the planning application for the site is approved. Interserve have not yet made contact with Saddleworth School, so no planning application is on the near horizon.

All that happened in April 2014, was that the options agreement with the Diggle site land owner was finalisted and that Oldham Council's finance department signed a "section 151". This covers the following:

  • It legally binds Oldham Council to pay for those areas of the new school development that the Education Funding Agency are not paying for.
  • It legally binds Oldham Council to pay the Education Funding Agency and Interserve any expenses incurred should the new school project be terminated for any reason.

The options agreement gives Oldham Council the right to buy the land at the Diggle site on the agreed terms at any time, but this won't be before any planning application is approved.

Cllr Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, has already told Saddleworth residents back in October 2013, that the Diggle site had already been chosen by the Education Funding Agency and that the Uppermill options had all be rejected during their feasibility study.

However, a Diggle resident has received a personal letter from Mr Peter Lauener, the Chief Executive of the Education Funding Agency, dated 16th May 2014, stating "The feasibility study of the school is currently being reviewed." and that "I am expecting the feasibility study review to be completed by the end of June."

This shows that no firm decision has been made yet by the Education Funding Agency and that the fight is still on.

Letter to the editor of Diggle News: It's NOT a done deal

I was shocked to read the front page headline in the Oldham Chronicle on Wed 9th April regarding the proposed Saddleworth School, as the Chron is clearly not questioning the fallacious PR campaign being run by OMBC. The "deal" referred to was simply the signing of a previously agreed deal. It in no way merited a front page headline, since the key "deal" yet to be done on the new school involves planning permission, which is not applied for yet, and will be substantially challenged by the huge groundswell of public opinion in Saddleworth; which is opposed to this totally ill-conceived, un-thought out and un-consulted proposal.

It's not a done deal, there is a huge number of hurdles still to pass on this. They are too numerous to list fully here, but involving Sport England (who will oppose the planning if it does not include a like for like "all weather pitch" as part of the plans, and for which it seems OMBC do not have sufficient funds); and huge transport and access issues that have not been costed (& which if fully taken into account will be more than the cost of developing the Uppermill site). The site itself is not flat, and subject to flooding; so there will be enormous disruption to the natural land levels in the valley, and huge levelling costs – added costs which are also not fully accounted for. All of this will lead to inevitable compromise on the buildings themselves, to save the corresponding cost. Will the building be built of stone, and will it be the expensive ‘E’shape shown on the plans, or will these be sacrificed when the authorities realise just how much solving the planning issues will cost?

Turning to the deal itself; only half the access road is part of the deal (the other half will be an industrial road retained by the site owners and serving HGVs owners). A further part of the deal, if the Uppermill site should not get planning for houses, gives the developer the right to pull out, but still get paid for the Diggle site. What kind of a deal is this – certainly not one in the public interest? How can a deal swapping over eight acres of prime residential land in Uppermill for three and three-quarter acres of industrial land and nine and a half acres of green belt land ever be in the public interest if it does not involve a cash receipt of a minimum of five million pounds, (and a commercial valuation would doubtless show a higher figure)? If it is indeed a 'done deal' then I see no reason why the figure cannot now be released for public scrutiny, before the elections.

OMBC has stated on its website that parts of the school will be built on green belt land. OMBC is the custodian of the green belt, and should be doing all it can to protect it; and the local councillors who are meekly accepting/encouraging this outrageous attack on the green belt should hang their heads in shame. OMBC could easily have avoided any building on the green belt. There has been almost no local consultation in the plans so far, so are we to expect the same kind of imposed democracy when this actually goes to planning? Can we genuinely expect the officials at OMBC to take into account the views of the 2600 local people so far that have signed a petition against this (as opposed to only 160 who have signed in support), when no consideration whatsoever has really been given so far to local opinion? They have already prejudged the green belt issues, how many other issues will be swept under the carpet, as they did with the all-weather pitch at Crompton House?

The EFA has categorically stated that the existing site can STILL be considered, and that it is only cost that is the issue. Are we to believe OMBC can find money for the Diggle site, but not the existing one, when there is as a risk that there may be no proceeds from the Uppermill sale? The OMBC PR campaign would do well to listen to genuine local views, rather than trying to impose a fundamentally flawed decision that has not taken into account all the issues.

Stuart Illingworth

Green Belt Attack - new Saddleworth School

Those claiming done are jumping the gun - new Saddleworth School

Residents vow to continue school fight - new Saddleworth School

Getting the facts - new Saddleworth School

Oldham Evening Chronicle 13th May 2014 - Diggle School: I write in reply to Mr Marshall's letter (May 7) whom I have responded to a number of times explaining my position. I have to take issue with his comments. Most people agree with OFSTED that Saddleworth School's buildings need replacing.  Lib-Dems have been working on this issue for over two years. Liberal Democrats want a new secondary school for Saddleworth with the good teaching and sports facilities which our children and grandchildren deserve.  The £17 million Government grant for a new school was only offered after the Liberal Democrat Schools Minister personally visited the outdated facilities at Saddleworth School.  The Diggle site for the new school is far from ideal but all of the alternative sites in Greenfield, Delph and Dobcross suggested by Liberal Democrat councillors were rejected.  We will continue to campaign for the many access, parking and planning issues to be resolved at the Diggle site, on land which has been zoned for the last 30 years for industrial/business use.  I didn't make the decision.  Nothing has changed, the people with the money still haven't changed their minds.  The number of hours we have put in and continue to do so show that his comments are completely unjustified.  Councillor Garth Harkness. Oldham Evening Chronicle 23rd May 2014 - Saddleworth School: I feel I must comment upon Councillor Harkness' letter entitled 'Diggle School' in the May 13 edition of the Chronicle.  Having read the original letter from Mr Marshall, I was looking forward to a robust detailed explanation and defence of the Lib-Dem position from him.  But I was to be disappointed, he and his Lib-Dem colleagues remind me of a stuck record when you hear the same lame response time and time again, irrespective of the questions asked. In this case, it was a largely irrelevant response, as no-one is debating the need for a replacement school, just where it ought to be located.  i'll concede that the basis for his argument in support of this controversial plan may have had some relevance at the outset, when the information released was sketchy.  However, the debate has moved on, with a large amount of new information showing that what was once believable now no longer is.  sadly the Lib-Dem members appear incapable of weighing the evidence, and adapting their stance to fit the facts.  Instead of asking questions and promoting debate they continue their slaving support of Oldham Council's flawed policy on this issue.  This is not the service we need from our local representatives.  John Maynard Keynes famously said: 'When my information changes.  I alter conclusions.  What do you do, sir?' well, Councillor Harkness, what will you do?. M G Stothard

Oldham Evening Chronicle 28th May 2014 - Siting of School: I have read Cllr Harkness's reply in your Tuesday 13th May edition to my earlier letter with great disappointment, but no great surprise, as it seems to be in answer to a question that I did not ask. The motivation for my letter was the scaremongering statement he made at the Diggle Community Association meeting and his letter has done nothing to justify what he said. Correspondence from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) shows it to be untrue. Instead, he goes on about the need to replace Saddleworth School. In case it has slipped the Councillor's notice, that aspect is not being disputed by anyone in the debate. I certainly did not contest it in my letter. The issue is not 'if' the school should be replaced but 'where' the new school should be sited. He states that all the alternative sites in Greenfield, Delph and Dobcross were rejected but strangely omits to mention the existing Uppermill site which the EFA have not totally rejected. Was the quote I gave from the EFA letter relating to the re-use of the existing site not clear enough? He also makes reference to the fact that the Diggle site is zoned for industrial/business use. Only partially true. The industrial zoning he refers to applies to 30% of the site, which is still greenfield land. The other 70% of the site is in the greenbelt. I would be interested to hear his explanation of how the present zoning of the Diggle site has any material relevance to the most appropriate location of the new Saddleworth School? He says he didn't make the decision on the school site. True, but he did make the decision to support Oldham Council's policy on this highly unpopular plan against the wishes of a huge number of residents and for that he has to be accountable. He says 'that nothing has changed and that the people with the money haven't changed their minds' Cllr Harkness clearly isn't of a mind to help change that state of affairs but then he evidently misunderstands the situation. It is the EFA who have the money but it is Oldham Council who decide the location. He briefly alludes to efforts he's made but he didn't pursue the meeting with the Schools Minister and at the last Parish Council Meeting he voted NOT to approach the EFA for more information. How many Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests has he made? Apparently none, or he would have been at great pains to tell us about them. It seems that he has spent more effort preventing residents and parents from getting accurate information and instead helping spread the line that Oldham Council would like you to believe. Given that not a single word in his letter answers any of the issues I raised it is, for me, definitely a worry that we have a Councillor representing residents on both the Parish and Borough Councils who is seemingly incapable of grasping the salient arguments. If he had that capacity, then I believe he would be campaigning with local residents to 'get the people with the money to change their minds' and for the new school to remain in Uppermill. P Marshall