Are residents of Saddleworth better informed and being consulted following the public meeting, organised by Saddleworth Parish Council on Wednesday 27th September at the Civic Centre, Uppermill? The leader of Oldham Council, Jim McMahon and the head of Saddleworth School, Mathew Millburn sat on the panel and fielded questions from both councillors and the public.
Councillors Rob Knotts and Mike Buckley explained why the Parish Council had requested the meeting explaining that they were concerned that, to date, there has been no consultation with residents and parents of Saddleworth on the proposals for a new secondary school. Mike Buckley pointed out that, at the speed negotiation s are progressing, there is potentially too little time for residents to be consulted in advance of the final decision.
The purpose of the meeting was to inform residents of what is known about the present proposals and to open a dialogue with Oldham Council. Also, it would allow the public to voice their opinion, highlight their concerns and seek reassurance about the issues faced.
Was this achieved? To a point. Jim McMahon confirmed what the audience already knew. They could not be consulted on the choice of site and the limited budget would ultimately control the outcome.
Issues raised at the meeting:
- If the preferred site is Diggle, what are the access arrangements? How will this impact on the quality of life for residents of Diggle? Why to-date has a traffic survey not been undertaken? What attention has been given to health and safety?
- Where will the school be located on the site? Will the cost of cleaning contaminated soil and other groundwork push the school onto the two green fields close to the road?
- Will the school have sporting facilities?
- Will there be any additional housing built on the site?
- Will the new school building be of a high standard and be sympathetic to the environment?
- What is the future for the listed building on the site?
Mathew Millburn said that the quality of education at Saddleworth School is very good and the only thing failing the children is the building. He viewed the proposals for a new school to be a positive move forward.
Jim McMahon commented that his hands were tied by the constraints set by central government in particular Educational Funding Authoriy (EFA). However as Mike Buckley pointed out other options are still available, for example to develop the current site.
The EFA have stipulated that a new school cannot be built on the present site as it is not large enough. They point out that there are obvious issues with the topography and health and safety. The logistics of building a new school, for 1500 pupils, on a constrained site are unworkable whilst the existing school remains operational.
As a result, they have stated that the £15million currently on offer must be used for a new build and that Oldham Council should identify their preferred site quickly or risk losing the funding.
Diggle News would be interested to know what you think. Please leave a comment below.