Two members of Saddleworth Parish Council have resigned from the Liberal Democrats in opposition to the proposed move of Saddleworth School to Diggle. Cllr. Mike Buckley, leader of the Save Diggle Action Group, and Cllr. Lesley Schofield, have both campaigned for the new school to be built on the present site in Uppermill.
Cllr. Buckley explained the reasons for his decision. “I joined the Liberal Democrat Party because I believed the Party was committed to protecting Saddleworth from excessive and insensitive development. We have always campaigned locally with this as one of our main manifesto pledges, recognising that the people of Saddleworth want to see its green countryside and villages maintained and passed on, unspoiled, to future generations.”
“The planned move of Saddleworth School will destroy the character of a beautiful Saddleworth valley. Thirteen acres of farmland will be sacrificed for no good reason than it’s easier to build on the open countryside than on an already developed site in Uppermill. An open valley will give way to a three storey glass block, a huge new sports hall and two large playing fields created by bulldozing the natural contours of the valley. The whole will be surrounded by an oppressive 2 metre high metal fence. Extensive highway engineering of the only access road will totally destroy its village character. The rural setting of the canal and its popular towpath walk will be lost forever.”
“This is too high a price to pay for convenience and expediency. However, my fellow Liberal Democrats do not seem to see it this way. I expected that, as representatives of those affected, and being a party of opposition on Oldham Council, they would have challenged the decision by the Council to relocate the school on Saddleworth’s open countryside. Instead, ignoring local opinion, they have closed ranks with their Labour colleagues in full support of the Oldham plans. Their manifesto commitments to protect Saddleworth from inappropriate development now ring very hollow. Consequently, I now feel I do not wish to remain in a party that has closed its ears to local views and has cast aside its principles so conveniently.”
“I will continue on Saddleworth Parish Council as an independent councillor seeking to defend and protect Saddleworth and represent the views of those I represent.”
Cllr. Schofield said: “My allegiances have always been with the people of Saddleworth – I am determined to do what is in the best interests of the district. Over the siting of the school, the Liberal Democrats have shown that they are willing to ride roughshod over the views of local people, and instead prioritise unquestioning loyalty to Labour run Oldham Council.”
“Both of my children received an excellent education at Saddleworth School. But I know there are challenges facing the school. Owing to chronic under-investment many of the buildings now need rebuilding, and I fully support this. It has been shown that the school can be rebuilt on the present site, and this is the policy which must be argued for. The question is not whether the school should be rebuilt but where it should be rebuilt. The Liberal Democrats and Oldham Council believe this should be on acres of unspoiled green fields, I believe it should be on the existing brownfield site.”
“The Liberal Democrats are not capable of adequately representing the people of Saddleworth and it is for this reason that I will serve as an independent member of the Parish Council.”
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