Debbie Abrahams says she will keep an open mind but will not oppose moving Saddleworth School to Diggle.
At a teleconference on Wednesday 6th November Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, talked with members of the Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG) about the future for Saddleworth School.
During the teleconference, organised by Debbie Abrahams, SDAG asked if she would consider opposing the move of Saddleworth School to Diggle.
The teleconference followed a 15 minute meeting between Debbie Abrahams; the Rt. Hon. David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools; a representative of the Educational Funding Agency (EFA); and Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Oldham Council Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills.
Mr Buckley said: “Mrs Abrahams reported that they had had a wide ranging discussion on the concerns regarding the proposed new school in Diggle, but there was no discussion about the potential re-use of the existing site.
“She felt unable at this stage to commit to the SDAG campaign in opposing the school being rebuilt in Diggle and admitted that she was taking Oldham Council (OMBC) plans for the re-siting of a new school ‘on trust’. But after further questioning from SDAG she did agree to assist in gaining speedy access to the pertinent documents relating to why the existing site has been ruled out by OMBC and facilitate a meeting with Cllr Jim McMahon and OMBC to address the group’s urgent concerns.”
Keith Lucas, a member of the action group said: “I don’t think Mrs Abrahams appreciates the strength of local opinion on this issue. She referred in our conversation to the views of the silent majority. The silent majority we feel has been kept in the dark, but now the cat is out of the bag opposition is growing by the hour.”
In response to theses comments, Debbie Abrahams said: “This is a distortion of what I said in the telephone conference call with the SDAG last night.
“As I said, I’m keeping an open mind about the siting of the school in Diggle or elsewhere and have agreed to facilitate a meeting between SDAG and the Council so that both sides can get a clear understanding of the issues surrounding this important project.”
Diggle News has canvassed residents who are not connected to SDAG to ascertain what they feel about the proposal to build a new school in Diggle and, in the main, the overwhelming view is that they feel they are excluded from any decision making and the current proposal is a disaster for Diggle. One resident said: “If they involved ‘us’ or just listened to ‘us’ this could be so much better.”
Earlier this week, one of the country’s leading planning lawyers, Robert McCracken Q.C. of Francis Taylor Buildings, London, pledged his support for SDAG and their campaign. He has offered to provide the group with pro bono legal advice on issues surrounding the case.
His support for the Group comes from a desire to stop the development of green belt fields in the Diggle Valley and, the land in Uppermill being given over to housing developers
He has an affinity with Saddleworth having been brought up in Greenfield and cares passionately for its landscape and heritage.
McCracken said of the present scheme: “the proposals are unacceptable. This Green Belt land should not be sacrificed.”
Robert McCracken is one of the country’s foremost environmental and planning lawyer. He appeared at the Heathrow Terminal 5 Inquiry, the Stonehenge Inquiry and successfully opposed the scheme for 27 wind turbines in Cumbria at the Whinash Inquiry. Locally, he served as counsel for Derker residents who opposed the compulsory purchase of their homes in the face of Oldham Council and the Housing Market Renewal Scheme.