Oldham Council is forced to reconsider the planning applications relating to the proposed new Saddleworth School in Diggle.
A special meeting of the local authority’s cross-party Planning Committee had met on February 25 to consider four applications to:
- Build the new Saddleworth School on the WH Shaw Pallets site in Diggle;
- Demolish existing buildings on the WH Shaw site, excluding the listed building;
- Demolish the link bridge attached to the Grade II listed building on the WH Shaw site;
- Provide a parental drop off area plus residential car parking as part of the wider highways scheme in Diggle.
Some hours before the meeting – at which all four applications were approved – a letter was received from objectors.
It raised concerns, in relation to one of the applications, about how much importance should be given to the effect of the proposals on the setting of the listed building.
Oldham Council sought external legal advice and has now decided to reconsider the four applications at another special meeting.
Councillor Dave Hibbert, Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Transport, said: “We got a letter three hours before the Extraordinary Planning Committee met to consider these applications. That didn’t leave much time to consider what are very complex legal matters so it was only right and proper that we have taken external advice.
“As all the applications have previously been dealt with as one matter that means we must reconsider them together to ensure that fair and complete decisions are taken.
“In the light of that – and to avoid the risk of any further unnecessary potential legal challenge and delays – the four related applications will be therefore be considered again at an Extraordinary Planning Committee.”
Spokesperson for the Save Diggle Action Group, Keith Lucas said: “Cllr Hibbert’s statement neglects to mention that Save Diggle Action Group’s legal team’s letter gave OMBC the option to either adjourn the planning committee or defer their decision to give themselves time to consider the “complex legal matters” it raises and seek expert legal advice. Instead they decided to go ahead and determine the applications, on the advice of their legal department who could, they claimed, see no legal difficulties with Planning Officer’s report. SDAG told the planning committee 4 times that they were acting unlawfully, they choose to continue anyway.
“How is it that over and over again SDAG on behalf of residents of Saddleworth have to show OMBC that they are not managing to act with due diligence in a planning application that will have a severe and everlasting social and environmental impact on Diggle and its surrounding environs?
“The word “objectors“ is continually used for people that care about their environment and heritage, but I see them as Saddleworth’s custodians. The SDAG campaign for the school to stay where it is has always been lawful and truthful. People who are prepared to fight all the way to get OMBC to accept that the school should have already been built in Uppermill for the benefit of all of Saddleworth’s children has been our most important goal.”
Alistair Wallace, representing Irwin Mitchell, said, “There was a flaw in the decision making process. We had concerns about the legality of the application and it would appear that Oldham Council shares those concerns.”
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