Cheshire East

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Local authority faces judicial review over siting of new school

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council faces a judicial review over its choice of site for a new school.

Campaigners opposed to using a former pallet works for the new Saddleworth School, in Diggle, want the £20m project sited elsewhere in the town.

The Save Diggle Action Group has applied for judicial review of Oldham's decision. Its spokesman Keith Lucas told a local newspaper: “It’s a final chance to prevent the Diggle valley being bulldozed and levelled and the prospect of a car park, weld-mesh fences, astro-turf and floodlights on our greenbelt, ruining forever this popular canal-side setting and tourist destination.

“SDAG is now being forced to take the step we all hoped we might be able to avoid. We are seeking judicial review having twice pointed out the flaws in the application to Oldham’s planning committee.”

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A further dispute concerns the status of some of the site's former industrial buildings. SDAG cited a letter from Historic England which stated: “The site contains the majority of what was once the Dobcross Loom Works. On the basis of the information provided, many of the structures on site appear to date back to the 19th and earlier half of the 20th century, lending context and understanding to the Grade II listed Dobcross Works office building.”

Information issued by Oldham said the current Saddleworth School, which caters for some 1,350 secondary pupils, was to be rebuilt under the Government’s Priority School Building Programme, being in a poor state of repair and on a constrained site unsuitable for the planned expansion to 1,500 students.

It said the present school was “one of the schools in the poorest physical condition in the country” and that other possible sites all had greater disadvantages than the one chosen.

The council has though gained support from the Diggle for Saddleworth School activist group, which argues the new school is needed urgently and disputes over its siting should end.

A council spokesman declined to comment on the submission of a judicial review application.

Mark Smulian

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