The local authority is now close to finalising a deal to buy 13.28-acres of land at the former WH Shaw Pallet Works in Diggle. This plot, off Huddersfield Road, is the one shown at public meetings last year as Oldham Council’s preferred option for a new school site to be delivered under the Government’s Priority School Building Programme.
To select the site Oldham Council has worked in close partnership with the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which manages the project for the Department for Education, and Saddleworth School’s Technical Group which comprises Ward and Parish Councillors, Council officers, school representatives and members of the local community. These parties have decided that this is the best viable option to deliver the project within its finite budget and tight timescales and, offers the best solution for the school going forward.
Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “We’re making good progress on the next steps to deliver a new Saddleworth School fit for future generations. Oldham Council, the Saddleworth School Technical Group and the EFA are united in our view that the Diggle site is the best viable option.
“Two new schemes were also recently assessed that were submitted by a local architect. These proposed the new school could be built on grass pitches on the existing 11-acre Saddleworth school site. Neither of these schemes was viable. Some of the projected costs were incorrect and underestimated whilst other significant costs had not even been factored into the plans. There were also other weighty practical problems which included safety issues and a lack of car parking during the proposed construction period.
“We’re united in our view that the Diggle site is the best deliverable option and we are equally all committed to delivering the best possible scheme now that balances the needs of pupils, parents, staff and the local community alongside the tight project deadlines and budget. We fully understand some people remain concerned about certain aspects of the plans and we are listening to them. Oldham Council has already allocated an additional seven-figure sum to deliver major improvements to highways and traffic arrangements and we’ll share these plans with the public as soon as they are ready.
“I also want to make it clear again that, despite repeated and misleading claims to the contrary, there is no truth in the suggestion that we’re building a school on Green Belt land. The Diggle site is designated for industrial use. Green Belt land would only be used in this scheme for sports facilities and ancillary buildings, which does not alter its current status at all. We must not lose focus on the bigger picture here. Saddleworth desperately needs a modern secondary school and a facility the whole community can benefit from and be proud of. This is an opportunity to deliver that – and it’s one that we simply must not squander.”
“At Full Council on December 18, several residents had submitted questions via email and Social Media about Saddleworth School to be asked at ‘Public Question Time’. There was a large volume of questions submitted and – due to time constraints – many were unable to be answered in the allocated slot. Full answers to any questions not covered by the existing list of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ about the Saddleworth School project can now be viewed online here.