Reporter: Stuart Littleford
Debbie Abrahams MP has reassured Dobcross residents that they will be listened to at a special meeting in the village earlier this week.
The meeting was held at Dobcross Band and Social Club on Tuesday night by Dobcross Village Community (DVC) Executive Committee, to discuss road safety issues in the village after the recent approval to build the new Saddleworth School in Diggle. Although the meeting wasn’t held for formal objections it is hoped it will be the start of an on-going consultation process with the villagers.
The band club was packed with more than 120 concerned Dobcross residents who had come to listen to a number of invited speakers, these included Debbie Abrahams MP, Michele Carr – assistant director of Oldham council’s special projects, Paul Groves – Principle engineer with Unity Partnership and Councillor Dave Hibbert – cabinet member for housing, planning and highways. Also present were Saddleworth councillors Derek Heffernan and Garth Harkness and parish councillors. Journalist Ken Bennett, who is also a member of the DVC, chaired the meeting.
Villagers have become increasingly concerned – since the approval in March this year to relocate Saddleworth School to Diggle – that the village will be used as a short cut and be swamped with traffic resulting in chaos on a daily basis. They also have concerns over road safety issues and how any traffic calming measures that are taken will affect village.
Michele Carr told residents there were no proposals in place at the moment for traffic calming measures in the village, but if permission was given for the school in Diggle, they would consider all options available. Some of these options appeared on a diagram displayed on a large screen in the room, and consisted of speed ramps along Sugar Lane, as well as drop off points for children on Wool Road and a possible roundabout.
Parish Councillor Mike Buckley expressed concerns that Dobcross would become what he described as “urbanised” and that the character of the village could be changed forever. Cllr Buckley has always been against the relocation of the new Saddleworth School to the Diggle site.
Resident, John Dewhurst, echoed the concerns of many in the room by stating the idea of moving the school to Diggle was fraught with complications and it should remain on its present site in Uppermill – his opinion was met with long and loud applause from the room.
Cllr Hibbert insisted he had “full confidence” in his technical team and the council highways department and that any road issues would be dealt with in the best possible way, he said there would be a full consultation on any new road traffic measures being considered.
Paul Groves from Unity partnership insisted that any traffic calming measures on Sugar Lane would be there to encourage motorists to use Delph and Dobcross New Roads instead. Pamela Rose, chair of the DVC, said she wanted to “keep the village safe and limit the amount of traffic coming through it” on a daily basis.
There was uproar in the room when it was suggested by Cllr Hibbert that local residents would eventually come to the conclusion that “the problems would probably not be as bad as they first thought”.
Another idea mooted by one resident was for local buses to have Wi-Fi installed as this would encourage the school children to use them more frequently. Debbie said she would be looking at various options with Transport for Manchester to maximise bus use amongst school children.
Debbie also reassured the room that they would be listened to and said: “I see this as just the start of a process.”
“We need to meet regularly and as often as we can, we can’t please everyone all the time and whilst we all love our 17th century villages we have to accept that we also want to have a 21st century lifestyle.”