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Saddleworth School Update: Option agreement signed – work on planning submission starts

saddleworth school

Greenfield and Greenbelt site at Shaw’s Pallet Works, Diggle (Photo: Paul Marsh)

Oldham Council has now signed the legal agreements with partners to deliver the proposed new Saddleworth School at Diggle.

The local authority has been in negotiations to acquire an area of land at the former WH Shaw Pallets Works in Diggle to be funded using the existing school site on High Street, Uppermill, in exchange.

The option agreement now enables Oldham Council to complete this purchase at any time in the forthcoming months. This will be done if and when Interserve, the construction partner selected by Government, obtains planning permission for the proposed development this summer.

The next steps will now see detailed design meetings taking place between Oldham Council, Saddleworth School, the Education Funding Agency, which manages the project for the Department for Education, and Interserve.

The discussions aim to draw up a series of vital works that would be needed in the Diggle area. These include carriageway and footpath widening works, the introduction of a School Safety Zone, the development of a residents’ car park and fencing work.

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, visited the site today to discuss the plans with Matthew Milburn, Headteacher at Saddleworth School.

She said, “It’s excellent news that we now have the necessary legal agreements in place to deliver a new Saddleworth School in Diggle. The meetings that will be held next will take around eight weeks to complete and they will be absolutely vital to this project. We know that some people in the local community have expressed concerns about the plans. It’s now our challenge to come up with a scheme of associated works that can deliver the best possible solution on these matters, and we are passionate about succeeding in that task.

“We know we must work hard to get the detail right in order to deliver a modern new secondary school that works for Saddleworth. Once the proposed works and designs are drawn up we will, as we have always promised, share these with the public for feedback before any planning application is submitted by Interserve.”

Matthew Milburn added: “Saddleworth School is an important institution but the local community is equally important to us. Our technical group is looking forward to playing a full part in these discussions and helping to ensure the proposed improvements and designs offer the best possible outcome.This will be a very challenging phase of the project and one that we are all committed to getting right.”

The public are advised that contractors will be at the WH Shaw Pallets site this week dealing with a dangerous structure on the area of land not being acquired by the council to the rear of the site. Surveyors advised the current landowners that part of the building is unstable and needs urgent action.

Full demolition of the building is not necessary but some parts of the upper storey, three elevations and the roof, will need to be removed.

Cllr Chadderton said, “The landowners informed us that engineers fear there could be a partial collapse within the building. This work is needed to prevent any potential danger to members of the public who use the canal tow path. Public safety is paramount, of course and, although this minor demolition work is totally unrelated to the Saddleworth School proposals, it is a reminder of the industrial nature of some of the existing site and its current state.”

Saddleworth Parish Councillor Mike Buckley, speaking on behalf of those who oppose the building of a school in Diggle, said in response to the above press release, ‘It contains no new information and reiterates OMBC’s determination to press ahead against all odds with building the new school in Diggle. In the absence of the promised capital receipt from the land swap deal, OMBC have now committed a substantial sum of ratepayer’s money to embark on the necessary infrastructure work that the council are liable for under their agreement with the government’s funding agency.

“Despite repeated requests for information, the Council have resolutely refused to publish the extent of their financial liability or details of the works they will have to undertake. Recent press reports have highlighted the access difficulties with the Diggle site and the likely threat to pedestrian safety. It is alarming that no detailed survey of highway conditions or pedestrian access has yet been carried out and that this seems unlikely to take place in advance of planning permission being applied for.

‘We have been informed that Interserve, the contracter, will be responsible for this survey and analysis. If highway work goes ahead in advance of these technical surveys and planning permission being secured there is a great deal of scope for abortive work and wasted money. Widening the road at one point is futile when passing problems remain elsewhere and footpath difficulties and pedestrian safety issues remain unresolved.

“The whole issue of sports pitches is still up in he air, with no statement as to what will be provided at Diggle and where the pitches will be located. Flood defenses and the destruction of the nesting sites of protected species also remain unresolved problems.  There are many risks and bridges to cross in achieving planning permission and therefore, it cannot be a 100% certainty as has been claimed.

“As the difficulties and complexities of the planned move are becoming apparent timescales have slipped twelve months since the announcements last October.  Recent information is that the school will not now be ready until 2016 and it is unlikely that Interserve will be in position to submit planning permission before the end of this year, twelve months later than initially promised by OMBC.

“Diggle is a high risk strategy, and a totally unnecessary high risk.  It has now been accepted that the only substantive reason why the new school cannot be built on the existing site in Uppermill, is value for money – i.e cost.  But no detailed costings of either proposal have yet been carried out and OMBC refuse to publish any information on the costs of building on either site.

“Opposition to the Diggle proposals is growing by the day, not just from Diggle residents, but also from residents and businesses in Uppermill, Greenfield and all over Saddleworth.  All parts of the district will be negatively impacted by the relocation.  The present numbers who have signed our paper and on-line petitions now stands at 2500 and the total is growing by the hour.  In contrast, only 160 signatures have been collected by the on-line petition, launched several months ago, to support the move of the school to Diggle.

“The campaign to build in Uppermill will go on and we still hope that reason and common sense will prevail within the ranks of Oldham Council.  Saddleworth can have a new school without all the problems that its relocation to Diggle entails.  All it takes is an open mind on the part of OMBC and the school governors and the will to make it happen.”

15 comments to Saddleworth School Update: Option agreement signed – work on planning submission starts

  • DCA

    I think it wrong to suggest it is a ‘done deal’. There is a long way to go and a lot of work to be completed. Many questions remain unanswered regarding additional costs and infrastructure changes. Until these are addressed satisfactorily, I must assume that the decision makers and planners have not found appropriate solutions. Considering the outcome affects the quality of education, of life and the Saddleworth environment, there is a lot at stake. OMBC, the EFA, Interserve and the residents can not afford to get it wrong.


    if the school does move,which i am against, does this mean the turning circle in uppermill which is for school use would be be redundant?
    This could be turned into a car park right in the heart of the village for customers to shop and keep the high street alive which is a issue all over the country.
    The buses could turn round at the turning circle across from warf mill.


    i also must claim a interest in both locations of the school because i live in Diggle and have a business in uppermill which i employ 30 local

  • Dave Wickham

    As a resident of Dobcross, I cannot be accused of being a ‘biased Diggler’. The proposed development will, in my view, ruin one of the most pleasant valleys in Saddleworth, indeed Oldham. The constuction of a 1500-student school with large sports centre, will create a tunnel-effect corridor of properties running from the entry to the village, all the way to the Old Co-op.
    We are informed that a school on the existing site is ‘totally impossible’ due to costs. Exactly where is the evidence for that statement? Is it available for the residents of Saddleworth to view? I do not think so. Why is this?
    The banner headline in tonight’s Oldham Evening Chronicle reads ‘A done deal’. Should we ask exactly WHEN was the deal done? Today or in the past? Having been a Senior teacher myself, I can state that it is totally possible to build on an existing site, with careful planning (eg Contractors moving vehicles onto & off-site only outside of school hours etc.)
    Living in Dobcross, I can foresee a huge increase in traffic through the village, which already has congestion & potential for accidents.
    Finally, are the Saddleworth residents being given the FULL facts in this situation? Discuss !!

  • Emma Smith

    SDAG are being wreckless by continuing to spread the false rumour that Uppermill is still an option “as long as OMBC bung another £2m into the pot”. There is NO extra money and the EFA will NOT build in Uppermill.

    So when SDAG knock on your door and ask you to sign their petition remember this; No School in Diggle = No School in Saddleworth.

    So please don’t risk our children’s future, support the Diggle move

  • CS

    Emma Smith,
    You on the propaganda train as well, what absolute rubbish, do you have one piece of evidence to prove that the Uppermill site is not viable?? if so please share 1000’s of people would be delighted to see it, after all thats whats has been asked from OMBC and EFA for via FOI (thats freedom of information) just incase you didn’t know!. which neither organisation have adhered to. Is Saddleworth school closing??? are you in the know Emma have you been told something no parent or councillor has??

    As for OMBC adding another £2million into the pot, they seem only to willing to pay for infrastructure costs, a new all weather pitch, car parks, an extra field the list goes on, I think you will find the sum total will be a tad more than £2million.

    You more than willing to totally devastate Diggle & Uppermill not to mention Saddleworth’s glory for a new school that won’t even have the same facilities as the current school and have a very limited lifespan with such a cheap, yes cheap build £17m is very cheap for a school.

    OMBC have behaved deplorably, this is pure and utter greed on OMBC’s part, a land swap deal with a capital receipt all wrapped up in a nice pretence a school.

  • Keith Lucas

    Its good to see Emma Smith comments in full throttle. Her normal response is “Game over SDAG. Now let’s crack on and built the thing… thats was in January 13th. It seems she has total disdain for any form of local democracy and feels what she says should be right. Public debate no thank you, public involvement no thank you, environmental and ecological considerations no thank you.
    What we have recognised and proven is that those type of comments seem to be the minority not the majority. I even called them at one stage boring and chavvy because they just traded insults and not evidence or intelligent debate and all hell broke loose, but it was perfectly OK for -pro school build in Diggle supporters – to call SDAG supporters NIMBYS. But that backfired, a great letter written by a local resident defending NIMBYS was one of SDAG’s best recruitment drives.

    What is obvious now is that a lot of Saddleworth residents are sick to death of being told what to do, disenfranchised from our democratic rights by lacklustre support from our elected representatives (apart from a group of spirited independent councillors and one brave conservative councillor who was censured for his support), our statutory and legal rights run roughshod over by a boorish local authority and spin after spin from the school head and Chair of Governors. Of course a school can be built in Uppermill its just that’s not what OMBC wants.

    So I’m sorry to say to the Emma Smith’s of this world. We are here to stay, campaigning and fighting to support what a majority want.
    “its a Done Deal” headlines are meaningless because you can’t build a school without planning permission. So in two words “GAME ON”

  • Paula

    Well said Keith!!!! I am a nimby and proud. Thank you SDAG.

  • Emma Smith


    Well clearly I have touched a nerve. Regardless of your accusations I am neither “boring” nor “chavvy”, I’m just a concerned Diggle mum-to-be (hurrah!) who feels that the school should come to Diggle and that it will improve our village. Just because some of us disagree with SDAG doesn’t mean we are wrong.

    I firmly believe that the new school has the support of many Diggle residents and the majority of Saddleworthians, the only people REALLY opposing the move are those handful of vocal supporters who live in houses where the view will change. And for me Keith, that’s not a valid enough excuse to risk the future of our children’s education.

    My house had a new estate build right in front of me a few years back and I didn’t complain because it’s called progress and a village, especially ours, needs to move on, progress and change.

    When the summer comes and the plans are published, we’ll all be behind the council and supporting them all the way. As you say… ‘ Game On’

  • Paula

    Emma, the only people REALLY opposing the move are those handful of vocal supporters who live in houses where the view will change. How naive are you! are you not aware of the support SDAG has? that far exceeds the residents on Huddersfield Road – that is whom you are referring to I take it. You are obviously a person who rolls over and let’s our countryside be destroyed. You are so blinkered at the other serious concerns I’m bewildered. Im surprised though that you moved to Diggle village in the first instance it clearly is not the beautiful village to you, as I see. Maybe you should move to Oldham Town Centre plenty of progress and change there. Just up your street. Leave Diggle alone we are quite happy as we are thank you.

  • Emma Smith you say you are neither boring or a chav maybe not but you are both very childish and selfish, you have the same me me attitude as most of todays society the world revolves round your kids. We are not trying to destroy your childrens future there is a good site in Uppermill where the school could be, most of the schools in Oldham have been rebuilt on the same land Chadderton for example so why destroy a popular tourist spot that will not be, if the school goes ahead in Diggle. You say you accepted having the estate built in front of you perhaps that was because you were not bothered about your area, well WE ARE, and beacause we don’t want the school in Diggle doesn’t mean we are wrong. Keep up the good work Keith.

  • DobxDoris

    The traffic issues will be a major problem, where are all the cars going to turn round on Huddersfield road? What will happen in Dobcross it regularly comes to a standstill now when
    buses meet traffic coming the other way, I would think the only option is a one way road.

  • Emma Smith


    Why are you so “bewildered” by my point of view? When OMBC announced their plans to build the school here we were delighted. And here’s why…

    SDAG see traffic chaos, we see improved access to our village
    SDAG see safety problems, we see widened and improved footpaths
    SDAG see “devastation”, we see regeneration
    SDAG see a valley ruined, we see a non-descript field put to good use

    Diggle can only thrive as a village if we see opportunity and not problems. Don’t forget that 75% of us Digglers live in post-war homes built on green land. You can’t have it both ways.

    Onwards and upwards I say. Bring on the diggers!

  • Keith Lucas

    Emma surely 2600 people can’t all live on Huddersfield Road? For your information the campaign supporters are throughout Saddleworth.
    I actually didn’t call you personally chavvy or boring, I said some of the comments of the Pro school build in Diggle brigade were chavvy and boring.
    And to feel that building over every piece of available land is progress, just read today’s headlines from United Nations climate change report.
    There is an alternative it’s called Uppermill and if everybody had the strength and energy to let OMBC know that was the preferred option, without all the spin and propaganda since last October Saddleworth School and it’s students could have been looking forward to a brand new school in 2015.
    And as for poor old OMBC having to cough up £2 million for a school build in Uppermill, they are loaning £100 million for all of Oldham Town centre regeneration schemes. So Saddleworth is not worth investing £2 million in? When Cllr McMahon calls Saddleworth the jewel in the crown I now understand what he means for the council and developers.

  • Paula

    Emma, widened and improved footpaths? I’m bewildered exactly where are they planning to do this when they are houses either side of the bottle neck road. Obviously I am missing something. OMBC must be able to move houses too. You are certainly a Towny. I don’t know why you live in the countryside if you can’t respect it. What a shame.

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