More than eighty members of the public stormed out of Monday night’s Saddleworth Parish Council meeting in anger after parish councillors, in their view, failed to effectively deal with their questions and concerns
Normally at the start of a council meeting a short amount of time is allocated to allow the public to ask questions but at last night’s meeting, in response to the sheer numbers that turned up, the time was unusually extended. Even though this concession allowed more questions to be asked, it didn’t satisfy the public’s desire for clear unambiguous answers. When, Parish Council Chairman, Cllr Enid Firth, finally brought public questions to a close, the public stood up, en masse, and in protest left the room. Both they and the councillors were clearly unhappy with the outcome. Several members of the public demanded a public meeting be organised by the Parish Council and were angered further when Cllr Firth said it’s not the chairs job to organise a public meeting. One woman asked, “How do we do it then?” Cllr Firth remarked she should ask Cllr Buckley thus putting the neutrality of the Chair in question.
It was clear that people in the gallery expected a constructive response to their questions yet, in the main, received a repeat of what they’d heard before. Cllr Cullen said that they would need to wait for the EFA reports to be released before questions could be answered. Cllr Lord added that OMBC had completed a plan for road widening twelve months ago but this had not yet been released.
Cllr Buckley said that it was wrong to say that there will only be a new school if it’s built in Diggle. A representative from the EFA confirmed to him and others, at a meeting last week, that they would build a school on any site that OMBC chose and that all four sites would be acceptable.
A Dobcross resident asked about the impact on Dobcross with increased traffic and Cllr Sheldon said that road safety and public access hadn’t been considered properly. Cllr Knotts pointed out the need for a holistic approach and a detailed traffic survey. Saddleworth resident, Samantha Marshall, read out a statement followed by a question.* (See below for full text.)
It is clear that eighteen months on, the people at the meeting still feel excluded from any decision making and the Parish Councillors are struggling to find answers to questions. Without doubt, OMBC and the EFA hold all the cards and sadly, for people in the borough, it’s looking like consultation could once again end up being simply a presentation leaving Saddleworth isolated with no voice.
*Statement made by Samantha Marshall
As concerned Diggle residents, my husband and I have been in direct communication with Mr Peter Lauener, the Chief Executive of the Education Funding Agency since early 2014, expressing our concerns with the proposed building of the new Saddleworth School in Diggle.
On Friday 16th January 2015, along with another concerned resident, we met with Mr Mike Green, the Director of Capital of the EFA, for an open and frank discussion on the results of their feasibility study into the four site options for the new Saddleworth School.
Mr Green confirmed the following to us:
- Their study determined that it was feasible to build the new fit for purpose school on ALL four site options within the EFA’s budget.
- NO site option has been rejected by the study.
- The recommended option by their study, of the back site in Diggle, was due to it being the lowest cost to the EFA’s budget. But all other options are available to be chosen by the local authority.
- The EFA is only concerned with the costs to themselves, within the boundary of the proposed school area. Issues of road access and local infrastructure are NOT their concern and are NOT part of their feasibility study or costings.
- Their study does not take into account the costs which Oldham Council will have to incur, or any issues which they will have to overcome, in order for the school to be built in a location.
- The EFA does not impose a site option choice onto Oldham Council and would be happy to build it on any of the four site options examined, if asked to do so by Oldham Council
- It is for Oldham Council alone to determine the location of the new Saddleworth School.
When asked if the recent decision to build in Diggle was final and could now not be changed, Mr Green confirmed that this was not the case.
They would not build the school on a site which Oldham Council did not approve of.
Should a request be made by Oldham Council of a change of location to Uppermill during the process, then they would be able to accommodate this.
We have been misinformed by Oldham Council, in their recent press release, that it was the EFA who decided the location of the new school to be the back site in Diggle. In fact all options are feasible, are within the EFA’s budget and the EFA are willing to build it on any of the site options examined, including in Uppermill.
It is Oldham Council alone who has approved the building of the new Saddleworth School in Diggle, with no consultation with the Saddleworth residents or the parents of children at the school. They have ignored both a 3000+ signature petition and the election of an independent borough councillor by Saddleworth North voters, which expressed their wish to keep the school in Uppermill.
Previously, the decision by Oldham Council to build the school in Diggle was made because it was thought that there was no alternative.
The EFA have now confirmed that there IS an alternative.
Since thoroughly reviewing all the options, they are now willing to build the new Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill.
It is time to stop and rethink the options available.
This is what the EFA have done, so why can’t Oldham Council?
We must echo the sentiments expressed by Jim Williams in his Friday column (Oldham Chronicle 23/01/2015) as to why they insist on their “It has to be Diggle” attitude and ignore the views and concerns of the local residents?
It is time for Cllrs Jim McMahon and Amanda Chadderton to listen and act on the wishes of the Saddleworth residents and request the EFA build the new Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill.