By Mike Buckley
The Oldham Council statement is pure propaganda in favour of relocating the school in Diggle and like previous similar statements by the Council it is short on fact but high on rhetoric.
In support of the move, the statement continues the Council policy of abandoning objectivity in preference to peddling information intended to mislead. I would like to correct just a few of the misleading statements.
The school is being partly built on the green belt land in Diggle, the two storey sports hall is entirely on the green belt, as are the playing fields and fences. No clever words can get round this fact. Both are classed as development in planning terms and, contrary to the statement, the status of the green belt land will change as it will no longer be classified as a greenfield site.
The so called technical committee, largely composed of individuals with no technical qualifications, being self selected and accountable to no-one, is not representative of the community. The decision of the group to abandon the proposals to build the school in Uppermill in favour of Diggle, was far from unanimous, many members objecting on having to make a decision in the absence of either any meaningful financial or technical information on the two options.
The rejection of the recent proposals to build the school in Uppermill was also made in the absence of any rigorous assessment. No-one, including the technical committee, has seen the results of the so called evaluation of the scheme that took place. The claims about inaccurate costings cannot be substantiated without the evidence on which these statements were made.
The lack of technical and financial information on both proposals brings into question the rigour and objectivity with which the decision to move to Diggle has been made. The Council seem to be under the impression that the people of Saddleworth do not need this information and will instead trust the Council to make the right decision. Many of us do want to see the facts and the basis for this unpopular move.
Uppermost in the Council’s decision is undoubtedly the land swap deal, exchanging the existing Uppermill site for the green fields of Diggle. The Uppermill site is prime development land that would fetch a high price on the open market. The Diggle site is 75% green belt, land that could not be used for housing or industry and would command a much lower premium on the open market. How much are the council making out of the deal? They have refused to give any indication of the numbers involved. I am amazed that they are close to signing, surely they should first wait for planning permission to build on the Diggle site – by no means a certainty in view of the number of both national and local planning polices with which the proposals will conflict. The planning application has not yet even been submitted.
I continue to be very disappointed at the secretive way in which this project is being handled by the council. It is probably the most significant development proposal affecting Saddleworth for decades. Councillor McMahon at the public meeting in October promised consultation before the planning stage. Where is it? The Council instead continues its policy of withholding information and making decisions behind closed doors. Instead of information they fall back on telling everyone in Saddleworth what is good for them. The people of Saddleworth deserve more respect than this torrent of whitewash and propaganda.
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