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


Our Objections

Well where do we start? In no particular order.

Whilst not denying that the current Saddleworth School, currently located in Uppermill, needs to be replaced, it is our opinion that the current proposal of the site in Diggle and its design and current level of funding by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is not the best that we can give the children of Saddleworth.

Redeveloping the existing site will unite the Pro & Anti Lobbies to the long term benefit of the school and residents, whereas the present scheme is very divisive.

The children of Saddleworth deserve much better than is currently being offered to us by the EFA.

It should be rejected for the following reasons:-

Location and infrastructure

Currently Uppermill already has the infrastructure to support a large comprehensive school. Removal of the school will undoubtedly impact on Uppermill’s economy.

Diggle on the other hand, having village status, has minimal facilities and consequently is unable to support a large staff and pupil population.

Are we to expect that there will be pressure then to build shops etc and turn Diggle into another Uppermill, finally removing its village character?

This development is not in accordance with the Local Development Plan. This should only be deviated from for very specific reasons.

Near a busy main road, river prone to flood, canal and a railway due to be electrified shortly. What more wouldn't you want near your child's school?

Access and traffic levels

The access into Diggle is narrow and often constricted with the existing traffic flow. All traffic effectively has to enter and leave by the same route. The proposed development will bring high levels of additional private vehicles and buses.

It is also the official Emergency Access Route for the Standedge Tunnel.

No solution to this problem has been proposed.

There are currently 30 Buses to and from Diggle centre and Huddersfield between the hours of 08.00 hrs to 15.00 hrs which will increase with the flow of dedicated school buses.

Is there a possibility that First Group will need to increase the service intensity in peak hours to cater for those children who use the normal public transport that currently terminates in Uppermill?

The current commercial activities at the Loom Works will continue so HGV’s will be in close proximity to the school and pupils – safety concerns at all levels.

There is currently a problem with both high volume and speeding traffic along Huddersfield Road, and the proposal to extend the double yellow lines along the length of the road will not help. The only thing that stops Huddersfield Road becoming a "race-track" are the parked cars.

Pedestrian access is via a pavement on just the east side of the road, which at the entrance to Huddersfield Road is only wide enough for people to walk in single-file. The narrow pavement at this point cannot be widened, as there are houses on either side of the road. The parked cars here give added protection to pedestrians on this narrow stretch of pavement, so removing them, would cause a safety concern.

Another safety concern for residents, is that along this stretch of Huddersfield Road there is no pedestrian pavement on the west side of the street and no room to ever create one. Residents have to step directly into the road from their properties. Increasing the traffic levels here during school hours, evenings and weekends (as the school will be used by the community outside school hours), as well as taking away the calming effect to traffic speed by the parked cars, would greatly increase the likelihood of a serious accident, not just to the school children, but to the local residents and their children exiting their properties.

There is NO solution to this issue. No matter how hard Oldham Council try to come up with one.

Traffic jam in Diggle - Two buses cannot pass - new Saddleworth School

The non-designated narrow rural road (not even classed as either a B or C road) to the village of Diggle frequently causes passing problems when buses or lorries meet.
Here are just two of the many occasions.

Diggle has one bus service every 30 minutes, which is virtually non-existent after 6pm.
So has no public transport for any out of hours activities, should the school be built there.

By contrast the current Saddleworth School is situated on the A670 primary route in Uppermill with frequent bus services well into the night and easy access routes from the whole of Saddleworth.

Traffic jam in Diggle - Two buses cannot pass - new Saddleworth School

Funding

The EFA offer of circa £17m is not thought to be sufficient and at best is the bare minimum, if that, needed to construct the school and could well come back to haunt us in the not too distant future.

If we really believe that the children of Saddleworth deserve something better, then we should not be rushing through a second rate and underfunded scheme with an off the shelf design on the basis that the current EFA funding will only be available for a short time. We should be fighting for a more realistic level of funding and if that means we have to wait until adequate funds are available, we think future generations will thank us for it. This unseemly haste to accept the scraps from the EFA table is short termism in the extreme.

The EFA's current tactics are reminiscent of high pressure sales techniques. This is a first offer at entry level and you never accept the first offer.

In fact the Chairman of Governors at Saddleworth School is on record, back in April of this year (as reported in the Oldham Evening Chronicle), as saying that a further round of funding could not be ruled out.

The Building

Whilst accepting the Head Teacher’s view that the proposed building can be made to meet modern teaching requirements, the yardstick being offered up, which is Campsmount Technical College in Doncaster, leaves much to be desired from an external viewpoint. The design is totally unsympathetic with any of the surrounding buildings.

It is cheap and it looks cheap.

Consequently it is hard to imagine that the building will weather well without substantial maintenance after a few years.

If a commercial or private entity submitted proposals of a similar nature for the area, they would be rejected out of hand.

To quote Tom Sharpe – it’s a “Blott on the Landscape”

Environment

According to the Leader of Oldham Council, Councillor Jim McMahon, at the meeting in Uppermill on Wednesday 16th October, the primary reason that Diggle has been chosen is the ability to deliver the site within the tight timetable as set out by the EFA.

That does not mean it is the best site for either the school or Diggle residents. That argument was never made in support of the current proposal.

Construction of such a school will mean the total destruction of the green areas in the valley floor – and once lost will never be recovered.

The proposed Sports Block and Sports Fields are on Green Belt Land, designated as the Huddersfield Narrow Canal Recreation Route (RR1), which includes a public footpath, and as such is protected from development. The public footpath would be completely re-routed under the terms of the proposed development.

It was not made clear at the meeting that a Sports Block was going to be built on green belt land, only that the Sports Fields would be allocated there but no specifics were given as to the materials to be used e.g. grass or a hard surface?

Flood Risk

According to Oldham Council’s own Hybrid SFRA report, undertaken in January 2010, when the site was being considered previously for the new Saddleworth School, the recommendation was that this site was not a preferred option for the school. This was due to the risk of flooding from Diggle Brook and the residual flooding from the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Residual flooding, from the latter, being the more serious risk.

The full report can be found at: http://www.oldham.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/1254/hybrid_strategic_flood_risk_assessment_level_2

Only recently did the Hudderfield Narrow Canal flood in September 2014 at the proposed site in Diggle for the new Saddleworth School and again in October 2014 near Linthwaite.

So the issue of residual flooding from the Huddersfield Narrow Canal CANNOT be ignored.

Concreting over the field would mean changing a large piece of permeable ground into impermeable ground, so the rain water that currently drains through the soil, will have no choice but to swell Diggle Brook and in turn the River Tame downstream in Uppermill, with inherent risk of flooding. As recently as 2012, normal rain flow increased river levels through Uppermill to an alarming degree.

Read more and view pictures and videos of the flooding in the flood risk section.

Saddleworth Parish Council Plan

According to the Saddleworth Parish Plan, which was created after a survey in 2008 of Saddleworth Residents:

  • “Protecting the appearance and character of the villages was also rated very highly by respondents, 92% agreeing that this was important.”
  • “81% felt existing employment sites should be protected from residential or other development.”
  • “Pressure on the green belt and employment land was also a concern with 95% stating that green belt protection was not strong enough.”
  • “Even the prospect of using some green belt for a new Saddleworth School, was strongly opposed by respondents with 64% disagreeing with this course of action”

From this survey the following Housing, Planning and Development Actions were formed in the Saddleworth Parish Plan:

  • Continue to resist building on greenfield sites (sites not previously developed but outside the green belt) and inappropriate development within the green belt
  • Continue to resist any loss of Green Belt.

The proposals fly in the face of this Plan.

Impact on Residents

At the public meeting of the 16th October 2013, the Head Teacher indicated that the school would be in use for normal daytime classes, evening classes and evening and weekend activities.

In effect, for residents living in the immediate area and the access road there will be no respite from traffic, noise and extreme light pollution from the inevitable security lights covering the car park, school building and flood lit playing fields.

This will be particularly intrusive during night time and the winter months. It was also very clear that the funding levels will not permit any niceties such as landscaping etc.

There is also an undeniable impact from a total of 1500 pupils.

Tourism Effect

Currently the Saddleworth economy benefits from tourism and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is used by fishermen, walkers, narrow boat enthusiasts from within and outside the area.

Given that the canal area will be adjacent to the playing fields safety concerns will require robust fencing. If that is to be anything like the palisade fencing currently used by Network Rail along side the rail line it will completely disfigure the attraction of this popular recreational route. The same concerns about fencing and safety along side the playing fields can be applied to where Diggle Brook dissects the area.

Driving people away will have a knock on effect on Uppermill’s economy.

Wildlife

It has been noted that Lapwings ground nest in the field adjacent to the canal and feed in the front field, where the proposed school is to be built. These birds are currently classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern Review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. This is due to their breeding population having decreased by over 50% in the last decade.

Whilst it might not be viewed with the same concern, the front field where the school building is due to go is used by Canada Geese as a feeding stop off point in their migratory trek.

Summary

Our objections are not about whether Saddleworth needs a new school or not. They are based on the view that the proposal is for the wrong location and for the wrong reasons which will result in an inferior educational facility for childrens’ long term future.

A different approach could provide this without having to divide communities.