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Mike Buckley responds to Brian Lord’s Comments in Saddleworth News

Mike Buckley

Mike Buckley

I am grateful to Brian for listing the reasons why the new school can’t be built on the existing site in Uppermill. Some of these have been alluded to before at various meetings and in press reports but this is the first time they have been clearly stated. The general nature of many of the comments and the lack of any technical support information or costings, I feel, indicates the lack of rigour with which the SDAG proposals have been assessed by the EFA and Oldham Council. Furthermore, Brian’s analysis mentions none of the comparative costs of building the school at Diggle or the technical and planning issues involved there.

I will not bandy words with Brian as to whether any sides involved may have been issuing misleading and inaccurate information, intentionally or not, I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions.

I will comment, however, on the other points he raises one by one.

1. The need to pile the proposed site of the school has not been established nor costed. Brian says it is highly likely – a few test bore holes like those carried out at Diggle would establish the need. Why hasn’t this been done if the site has supposedly been carefully assessed? In any case our technical advise is that piling is not particularly expensive.

2. Why would the road slip into Pickhill Brook? Again there is no evidence of this possibility and again no test digs to test the condition of the ground which would justify Brian’s statement. Brian’s comments are I think based on earlier proposals to site a road here and the costings then were based on the road being built much closer to the brook than the SDAG proposals. Part of the Diggle site is close to Diggle Brook, e.g. the bus turn round on the control option – wouldn’t the same arguments apply here?

3. Methane is generated by decaying vegetable matter, as in the Highmoor waste disposal site. The school site was formerly open farm land, like that in Diggle, so the need for this is highly unlikely. Again no survey has been done and no evidence of costings to support the statement. We have been advised that if a landfill gas membrane was is in fact needed, the cost of this would be negligible.

4. The temporary relocation of 10 specialist classrooms elsewhere on the site is the normal sort of issue that is faced when building a school on an operational site. This is entirely possible and practical and details costings for this could no doubt be ascertained by the EFA and Interserve. Operational arrangement would probably be able to mitigate the need for replacing this facility in its entirety on the existing site if there was a will to do this on the part of the School, EFA and OMBC. Matthew Milburn has previosly stated that he would look constructively at managing this at minimum cost.

5. The relocation of this facility would not add to the power load as it would merely replace the existing usage. There would therefore be no need for a separate supply to the sub-station.

6. The present sports block is built to a good standard, possibly better than the standard of that proposed at Diggle. It suffers from a leaky roof and dampness in one area. These problems could be easily rectified by spending a comparatively small amount on maintenance work. We have estimated the savings in cost to the project by retaining the block would be in the order of £1 million. This has not been disputed by the EFA or OMBC. In fact, a renovated sports block has successfully been incorporated into one of the new Oldham Academies and has been seen and applauded of by Matthew Milburn’s Technical Committee. Careful location of the new playing fields would avoid the sports block ‘sticking into’ the playing fields. This issue is easily addressed. At this point it is worth noting that so far the playing fields with the Diggle scheme have not been agreed or costed in the available budget. Providing equivalent facilities to those at Uppermill would probably significantly reduce the budget to be spent on the school itself.  Recent comments by Cllr Amanda Chadderton indicate that so far there can be no commitment to what sports facilities will be provided at Diggle.

7. The comments about the school drive being used by contractor’s traffic and pupils in my opinion is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard as an objection to this project. I note Cllr. McCann made the same statement in his recent Lib Dem leaflet. These sort of comments clearly give the impression that the authorities are scratching around for every reason under the sun why the school should not be built on the Uppermill site. Do they seriously think that pupils would be allowed to use this entrance while construction was underway? There are five separate pedestrian entrances to the school site. This is the worst form of scare mongering and Brian and his Lib Dem colleagues should be ashamed that they have allowed the debate to sink to this level. Health and Safety on the site would of course be maintained to the same high levels as any other building site.

8. My understanding from comments by Cllr. McMahon and others is that the capital receipts from the sale of the existing site would primarily be spent funding those aspect of the project not being paid for by the EFA. These would include highway work, parking facilities for residents, and possibly some playing field costs. No estimates of these costs have been published and I suspect are yet to be accurately assessed, so any extra money for the school facilities is as yet unproven. In fact Cllr Chadderton has recently indicated on twitter that extra funds beyond this may actually be required.

9. The time scales so far announced for the opening of the new school are completely unachievable given that work would have to start on the Diggle site in April to ensure the school would be complete in October 2016. As planning permission has not yet been secured, nor an application even been submitted (the process can take up to 26 weeks for a major contentious scheme of this kind) this looks to be impossible. What is more the land has not yet even been purchased from the owners, and cannot be until planning permission has been secured. The EFA and Interserve have not even finally signed up to building the school in Diggle. The stated timescales are clearly wishful thinking. In fact, this seems to be a characteristic of OMBC’s assessment of the timescales for the project to date. The continuing announcement of unrealistic timescales undermines confidence in the rigour with which the project is being costed, assessed and managed. No credibility can therefore be given to the assessment of an extra 8 months if the school is built in Uppermill. Where is the evidence for this?

10. The land occupied by the school, car parks, sports fields, and bus turn round at Diggle is essentially the same as Uppermill, the Diggle site in terms of usable space is therefore no bigger than Uppermill. The rest of the Diggle site is banking and unusable land. Uppermill of course has also the benefit of the other Uppermill sports facilities within walking distance and more car parking spaces would actually be available on site at Uppermill.

11. I will not comment on Brian’s statement on traffic issues at Diggle and that they can be simply solved in the way suggested. Anyone with knowledge of the existing traffic situation on this road will immediately see that the traffic problems will be far greater than OMBC and the school are presently acknowledging. The proposals to terminate buses and drop pupils off at Woolroad are clearly also unworkable and unrealistic.

12. I expect that achieving planning permission at Diggle will not be plain sailing by any means. There are too many arguments against the proposals to build at Diggle and too many local and national planning policies that the proposal would breach.

Brian is stating his opinion in saying that building the school in Uppermill is not viable. The EFA have said nothing of the sort, merely that it would be more inconvenient for them and may be more expensive. Cllr. Chadderton has recently quoted a figure of £2 million extra in Uppermill. This is a small price to pay to save the green fields of Diggle. But we do not believe this will necessarily be the case. If the school were built in Uppermill there would be hugh savings in other areas. There would be no need for a new sports hall, staff car park, bus turn round and new astroturf pitch. These savings could easily outweigh any extra expense associated with temporary classroom accommodation and building an extension to the present access road.

I respect Brian, as chairman of governors, for trying to defend a situation in which neither he, nor any of us, have been given any facts and costings. We need this information publicly available and open to challenge before a decision is taken in favour of Diggle. The case has not yet been made – it is all hearsay and ‘what ifs’. OMBC have so far refused to publish this information. Why? There is nothing confidential here – it is public money that is being spent. Surely the people have the right to see the basis on which this unpopular and seriously flawed decision is being made.

Brian, by far the easiest route to getting the new school we all want, is for you and Matthew Milburn, the headteacher to get behind the campaign to keep it in Uppermill.

32 comments to Mike Buckley responds to Brian Lord’s Comments in Saddleworth News

  • Wabosso

    For goodness sake… Stop bickering and start thinking of the children!! My 2 children are at Saddleworth and I do not want their education compromised! At this rate their will be no new school at all and then their education WILL be compromised. There is no ideal location for the school.
    The last thing I want is for my children to have to move elsewhere for their education because grown adults can’t get their fingers out and make a decision.
    Just get it built !!

  • Patrick

    Saddleworth parents need to start fighting and speaking up for their children’s education as Councillor Buckley does for his green fields.

  • There is a viable option for the school to be built UPPERMILL but the powers that be including Matthew Millburn want a brand new schoolin Diggle and as far as they are concerned so be it. But there are people living near where this is going to happen NIMBYS as we are now called, it doesn’t matter that we don’t want the disruption of a school being built traffic on a narrow road, noise at night and weekends, floodlights a sports hall on greenbelt land but no all thats for the good of the community we keep getting told whether we want it or not. We keep being called NIMBYS, but beleve it or not we are entitled to enjoy the rest of our future which doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of people including a lot of Lib Deb councillors. It has been said the people that are complaining are the elderly retired and the ones who will live near the school of course people who live near the school will complain, where once there was open green fields to look out on which they seem keen to destroy and then a big ugly modern building in its place. Thanks goodness ther are people like Mike Buckley who fight for our countryside. Other people have rights as well and we need people like Mike Buckley to speak up for us.

  • Sparkle

    Wonder how many will actually read this rubbish !
    Keep it short and sweet .
    There is huge support for a new school in Diggle ! We just want to hear the sound of construction vehicles on site and to have it built.
    The powers that be know the support is there from the residents of saddleworth NOT backing SDAG campaign .

  • Happy Diggle Resident

    Does Mike Buckley give a hoot about our children’s education? or would he rather ensure that Lapwings can nest in 5 years time as opposed to the future generations of Saddleworth receive a good education , can’t wait for the next local election so we can get remove some people from the council.

    Edited slightly by editor for legal reasons.

  • Carol Whittle

    Take the children away from the central village and out on a limb to Diggle and you take them away from easy access tocenral facilitie, for example the swimming baths, to which they walk for lessons at present– consequence-extra buses. If they miss the school buses in the morning or have medical appointments….one bus an hour to Diggle(are the bus company really going to increase their service just for a few? Very doubtful.) The large warning signs and lights at Austerlands, Grasscroft and Greenfield tell motorists that if lights are flashing they must prepare to stop in Uppermill, why.. because there are facilities there to stop when the Huddersfield rd. ( therefor Diggle too) is blocked with snow.At those times the buses terminate in Uppermill.
    It is very difficult to be the hub of a community when it is not in the centre of the whole.
    Building at the rear of the present site would be more readily considered if there was another 3 million pounds in the pot. Can you all buy a lottery ticket please, or could we have a phased development and put our faith in a change of government next year.

  • Barros

    What is very clear to me is that we hear very little from the parents of children who attend this school,all we seem to getting is bomb barded by a very small group of people bent on preventing a new build. I think this shows very clearly that this small group using delaying tactics so the the offer runs out of time. They have no intension of looking to educate the children in a village setting in a ultra modern facility (I bet they still prefer to use leeches & bloodletting) let’s be clear once the offer is removed then that’s then the end they have condemned the children to education in a substandard building which will have to be closed and education in the village setting will be lost for ever to housing on both sites The pupils will have to go to which ever school has places across oldham. Is it not time that this publication asked the parents and future parent what they think.

  • G Harris

    Fed Up – I agree. There is another option and this is being ruled out for no good reason. The Council are absolutely fixated on the Diggle option and have been right from the beginning which seems very strange when another option is available. The proposed site in Diggle is an outrageous location for a large school.

  • Helen Bishop

    Well done Mike for standing up for Saddleworth. For all of those taking the bait of the scaremongers, DON’T. A new school will be built come what may and any talk of it not being so is very misleading at best. This is Churchill all over again, and look at the state of it now. They used the same low tactics then to frighten people and nothing has changed. The current site is on high ground and there is a huge amount of stone on site which could be re-used to ensure that the new building is both economical and sustainable for many years. The bottom line is that developers want the current site, and probably the stone too. Meanwhile, the children of Saddleworth will be bunged into a cardboard school built on a flood plain. Brilliant!

  • Suzanne B

    Interesting comments by Mike Buckley. It’s about time this issue was resolved. I attended Saddleworth School 36 years ago parts of it were ancient & decaying then. We all stayed at the school whilst major works were being constructed {The then new sports hall} I don’t recall there being that much disruption to our education. There were temporary Portcabins installed which are still in- situ! I am sure there’s a way to keep the school in Upper mill. It is an ideal place to be, handy for the buses, shops close by, good existing school facilities & a great night school Centre. Why spoil Diggle ? We have heard that the facade of the Building if it were to be built in Diggle is similar to that of Mossley Hollins – which looks not dissimilar to IKea! so come on supportive O.M.B.C get a grip.

  • Patrick

    Sadly Helen Bishop a new school will not be built come what may, if the council do not resolve this matter quickly and submitt a planning application as a matter of urgency, the government will re-allocate the funding out of Oldham and future generations of Saddleworth Children will be educated outside the area. This is a fact, and one Mike Buckley having been a Borough councillor knows only to well. Saddleworth parents need to press the decision makers strongly and get this project underway before the funding is lost

  • Keith McZone

    Look at the fuss made over the Tesco development in Greenfield, and how people’s fears have been proved unfounded. I love the area we live in, and strongly believe that this development should go ahead.

    We are not talking about a Nuclear Power Station or Industrial Units, – It’s a secondary school, of which there is a great need for it, given years of little investment in the current building.

    Keith Lucas has stated on this comment board that the SDAG “do want a new school”, yet despite the independent conclusion that the current site at Uppermill is just not viable, they persist in offering objections and no solutions. Once again a small group in Diggle step into action under the impression they are doing the right thing for the community. Look at the farcical village green application by the DCA – who is paying for the legal fees taken up with that action? £500 was given to the community group, as was Greenfield & Grasscroft and Austerlands – what has this been spent on? A years’ subscription to the Diggle Community group? Do we get a say? Should this not be free and the money invested in something worthwhile, such as help fund the Band Contest on Whit Friday, or the Blues Festival? Or a memorial to WPC Nicola Hughes?

    We want a new school, and yes, I live in Diggle too.

    Support the school development, as OMBC, EFD and our Local MP Debbie Abrahams have done.

    You stand in the way of progress, however do not speak for the majority of Saddleworth Parents who want a decent school.


  • Gillian

    We all want a new school for Saddleworth, but we also want the children attending the school to arrive and leave safely. Anyone living in Diggle knows how difficult and dangerous the narrow entrance to the village is. It is a squeeze for cars to pss and two busses cannot pass without one driving over the pavement. Do parents realise that there is only a pavement on one side of the road and this is only wide enough for one person? How on earth are 1,500 children going to arrive and leave safely with a totally inadequate road and pavement area. A few ‘tweeks’ have been proposed, but nothing of any significance is possible given the housing situation at the entrance to the village. THIS IS A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN and is a huge concern for the people living in Diggle.

  • Mark

    I think a bit of context is required here.

    1. When this government came into power they cancelled Labour’s Building Schools for the Future scheme. Under the replacement scheme, there are far fewer schools being built and Saddleworth should count itself lucky that it’s being offered the money to build a new school at all. There are many run down schools with no prospect of renovation or replacement. (See this story for example: )

    2. When this government cancelled the old scheme, the reasons given included chronic overspend, delays, and botched construction projects. This political context means that the new funding agency does not want to get involved in complicated, expensive projects – they want a simple building project, which can be completed within a strict timeframe with the least number of complications and unknown/additional costs. That’s why the Uppermill site is so unattractive compared to the Diggle site.

    What do the people opposing the Diggle site think it looks like to people outside Saddleworth when its residents put barriers in the way of building a new school? If Mike Buckley and the NIMBY’s make a big enough fuss there is the very real prospect of them simply pulling the money. It’s going to be politically very easy for EFA to say “there was just too great a risk of overspend and delays due to opposition of local residents”, cancel the project and find a different run down school to spend it on in an area where the residents are grateful and EFA get nothing but positive press.

  • Dr Tony Doyle

    I have not met anybody who wants the school in diggle.

  • Josh

    With a child at the school and also a resident of Diggle I understand the needs, but do not accept this steam roller approach that the council etc are using. Just like any other business the options should be listed with pros and cons fully investigated in order to make the right decision on a timely basis. The current head teacher should also be focussing on the current school and pupils level of education which appears to be slipping rather than using his previous drama teacher role in this debate.

  • Helen Bishop

    And to the lady from Royton, what has it got to do with you? Focus on your own school. Besides which, I think you’ll find that there are already 2 schools serving your area. A brand new one in Royton no less, Academy North, so you have had money spent there. Fed up of people from the other side of the borough sticking the boot in just to have a snide dig at Saddleworth as usual.

  • Helen Bishop

    And I also asked what is happening to the mass of top quality Yorkshire stone on the current site? Does anyone know?

  • Sparkle

    Have these people seen the pavements leading to uppermill ?
    Not only that but they have to contend with people with prams and dogs and people visiting uppermill for various reasons .
    The position at present is not ideal by any means which is one of the main reasons it is not viable to rebuild .
    SDAG and followers need to start thinking about our children and stop stating false facts and stuff they know nothing about !

  • Lee Orton

    If the residents of Ryefield’s Drive and High Street in Uppermill had protested against the 1960s Uppermill school blocks in the way SDAG do now, there would be no school at all in Saddleworth.

    For progress to happen some people have to naturally fall on their sword and lose a view or two, it’s called working for the greater good. And if SDAG get their way and we have no school to educate our children from 2016 then we’ll know exactly who to blame.

  • Saddleworth parent

    Barros – well said.
    I am a Saddleworth parent with strong Diggle connections. I tried to speak up on another discussion thread on this site but my opinion carried less weight because I don’t live in Diggle.
    This has become an argument about the conservation of Diggle – the future of a school which just came second only to Hulme in the league tables is being forgotten. I’m being very careful what I say here, but I do feel Saddleworth parents living outside Diggle need to find a way of being heard.

    Has anyone out there set up a Save Saddleworth School action group? We might need it!

  • Emma Smith

    Can’t the council just put a CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) on the Huddersfield Road houses on the right-hand side as you drive into Diggle, then widen the road?

    Surely that would solve all the infrastructure problems?

  • Emma Smith, I am sure the people on the right hand side of Huddersfield Road would be really happy about that (not). We so called NIMBYS a favourite word at the moment, most have lived here all our lives and you selfishly suggest that they get kicked out ot their houses to suit selfish people like you I only hope your kids dont grow up to be like that. You are all out to disrupt peoples lives and that doesn’t seem to matter as long as you all get what you want.

  • Sparkle

    Dr Tony Doyle ,
    One can only assume you don’t have children at Saddleworth School or don’t get out much and possibly live in Diggle .
    The school governors and head are well aware of the support they have got for a new build school in Diggle .
    Twist the truth and facts if you like, the support is well and truly there .

  • HL

    i endorse what gillian has to say.i.e.thats its a disaster waiting to happen. i also reiterate my call for a full breakdown of costs for both the sites to be published so that a fuller picture can be seen.

  • Sparkle

    In response to HL .
    Why should a breakdown of costs be available . It isn’t all about the money .
    The size of land and layout , safety during building work ,infrastructure and improvements,loss of sports facilities, loss of classrooms , loss of parking , need I go on .
    See the whole picture of why Diggle is being the chosen site to pursue planning . .
    Why is it a disaster waiting to happen ? You say this but with no justification, it is only your opinion and did you say that when Tesco was built in Greenfield and yet look how busy that place is .
    Is the new police station a disaster ?
    Are the new or extended medical practices a disaster ?
    No they are not , so why is a new school in Diggle ?

  • Saddleworth parent

    Why on earth do you say the level of education at Saddleworth is slipping?
    Have you not seen the school results that have just been published?
    Saddleworth has just had record A to C results and is second only to Hulme.
    Mr Milburn is very proud of his students and his school and simply trying to secure their future. It would be ridiculous for him to stick his head in the sand and just carry on as though nothing is wrong.

  • the_oracle

    The Parents of Saddleworth children want the move to Diggle, it’s only the NIMBY’s trying to fight over their views that are the minority in this predicament. Why shouldn’t the children of Saddleworth be allowed to enjoy the wonderful views and terrain of Diggle, are they too precious for our next generation to immerse themselves in these surroundings? Would it not be a much better environment for the children to study and gromw, of course it would rather than being tucked away like an afterthought. Mike Buckley never mentions the children in his ramblings, does he care for their education? that much is clear. SDAG and their costings have shown to amateurish, that’s right let’s just throw money at the problem to keep the project from Diggle. Let’s not forget about placing the childen real danger from construction operatives using heavy plant and machinery in the vicinity of the proposed site to remain in Uppermill, has Mike Buckley visited any building sites with these ‘alleged’ high standards of health and safety? A Hi-Viz jacket doesn’t make you sensible.

  • Helen Bishop

    Sparkle? It is called transparency, and it’s an integral part of democracy. What is your real name I wonder? Not been unknown in the past for councillors and other officials to use pseudonyms. Saddleworth parent, I’m sorry to inform you that Saddleworth never comes second to Hulme. Crompton House and Bluecoat always feature above them, as does North Chadderton more recently. Besides this, Saddleworth has i believe had problems with bullying and drug use. It was the same when I was there and after 15 years working with young people in the area I can tell you that not much appears to have changed. Time to take the rose tinted glasses off for our kids sake. The last time this group of lib Dems bullied the community into a project……..well…..go take a look at Churchill. It’s got a lake to rival Alexandra Park.Worse than it ever was. And you would like to listen to them again and build a school on a flood plain?

  • Greenfield resident

    As a Greenfield resident I have no vested interest in Diggle and it’s beautiful views. I have a child who one day may be a pupil at Saddleworth School so in that case I want a new school built but I don’t think it should be bulldozed through like it is being.

    The Diggle option may well be the best option but with the information publicly available how can that be ascertained? Personally, I see no problem with the suggestion of rebuilding at Uppermill. Even with a perfect site at Diggle, with no traffic issues, no small village, no flood plain etc, Uppermill is still the obvious place for a 1500 pupil school. However, there may be good technical or financial reasons it cannot be done which the public have not been fully informed about.

    The residents of Diggle deserve to be told the truth as it is potentially going to affect the lives of hundreds of people – we are not talking a couple of “NIMBYs” here. If there are solid reasons why Uppermill is a no go and Diggle is the only feasible solution then perhaps they would accept that. There is no reason for OMBC to withhold the reasons unless, as everybody suspects, the truth is dirty and some people are due to make huge personal gains out of it.

    The Councillors are elected to serve the public – they should remember that.

  • Saddleworth

    Well said Sparkle . And hear hear Saddleworth parent
    People should, I agree , get facts right .
    Saddleworth school has been producing fantastic results,.
    To state it has had drug problems and bullying ? Where is your proof that it is any worse than any other school , state or public .
    More importantly what has it got to do with a new school being built in Diggle !!!
    Whatt a ridiculous statement , but yes let’s put it with all the other ridiculous reasons SDAG and followers keep coming up with .

  • Mel

    Sparkle – why don’t you round up your troops for this Pro Diggle….lets just get the thing built campaign. Numbers speak volumes, and I have plenty so far in Diggle, Uppermill, Greenfield who do NOT want the school in Diggle…maybe you should invest the time if you feel so strongly about it and start a Pro Diggle campaign.