A FORMER RAF Squadron Leader sent details of a spoof military decoration to Oldham and Saddleworth parish councillors in a bid to crank-up progress over plans for the new Saddleworth School.

Robert Knotts, chair of the Parish Council, said the decoration - the 'Most Highly Derogatory Order of the Irremovable Finger' - was for military incompetence to aircrew members serving in and with the RAF during World War II.

It appeared in a magazine distributed to allied air forces which illustrated how aircrew got things wrong and explained how they should be done with a focus on safety and associated demands of competence.

He said: “The ‘award’ did not name recipients, but it certainly shamed them. Perhaps a similar award is needed in the borough? Someone needs to pull their finger out.”

His letter was sent to Oldham’s leader Sean Fielding, Howard Sykes, John Hudson, Saddleworth Ward Councillors and parish councillors.

It came in the wake of Cllr Knotts detailed study of a 98-page document by a specialist firm on flood risk analysis at the proposed site for a new £19.2 million school in Diggle.

“I went to a great deal of effort and time to convert parts of the document into lay terms. The original document was in computer speak and would not be understood by anyone lacking computer simulation modelling expertise,” he explained.

“I was heavily critical of the poor quality of the report from a communication aspect. I also viewed it did not offer value for money to Oldham tax payers.

“The saga of the proposed new school started over 10 years ago, was resurrected in 2012 and since then has stumbled at many hurdles.

“Six years on, progress is woefully slow. Public meetings, public consultations, a judicial review held in March 2017, a flood risk assessment (FRA) rejected by the Environmental Agency have all delayed it.

“The rejected FRA prompted a second submission, which again struggled, adding further delay.

"It took five months for queries posed by the EA to the computer modelling specialists to be addressed, and then only following an expediting plea to OMBC. The delay seemed to go unnoticed by OMBC.

“The important question posed is: who has or should have his or her finger on the pulse to monitor and progress the work associated with the new school to ensure timely action? What seems to be missing is project management.”

Responding to Cllr Knotts, Oldham’s head of planning, Stephen Irvine, said: “As officers are now writing the application up for QC review, I’m not yet in a position to confirm a date when the school applications are to be reheard.

“When we get closer to the completion of the report and its QC sign-off, I will let you know its likely hearing date.”

Cllr Knotts also claimed an effective project management approach would include setting a target completion date.

Last week, in an exclusive interview with The Oldham Times, Joe Wheeler, former head boy at Saddleworth School, urged a ‘swift and abrupt end’ to delays over building the new school.

An Oldham council spokesman confirmed EA objections have been withdrawn in relation to the application.