THE executive head teacher of a school riven by years of bitter strife has issued a rallying call to a community.

Matthew Milburn was speaking after the deadline for a judicial review over the siting of the new Saddleworth School in Diggle passed without any challenge to decisions made by Oldham council’s planning committee earlier this year.

The £19.2 million school, which will be built on the site of a former pallet works at Huddersfield Road, will be a modern learning centre for 1,300 students.

Mr Milburn said: “The time has come for everyone to get together and build the school the community deserves.

“We should all be grateful to those who have shown such patience and resilience in getting this application across the line.

“It received unanimous cross party support from Oldham Council and, behind the scenes, planning and legal teams worked tirelessly to deliver this huge investment for the community we serve.

“The Education and Skills Funding Agency have also been resolute in sticking with the project despite the challenges presented over the last five years.

“School Governors have also been exceptionally determined, speaking out bravely and passionately to put the case for a new school.

“And thanks should also go to the various independent parent groups who campaigned for the new school,” he declared.

“We can focus on building our new school — not just where to place it. The design of the school building has long since been agreed.

“The actual school design has hardly been discussed with the focus on site and yet it has been commended by specialists as being creative, practical and excellent value.”

And Mr Milburn forecast: “We anticipate demolition of the derelict mill and site preparation will take place this autumn, contracts will be closed early in 2020 with construction lasting around eighteen months.

“I would like to thank the school staff for their professionalism and for not being distracted by what has been a very protracted and public dispute.

“The staff team have always maintained an absolute focus on enabling the children in school to learn and flourish.

“While a new building will really help in this mission, it's the way they teach and the relationships they form that make the difference.”

Alice Rae, chair of the school governors, said : “I am pleased after the delays and disruptions of the last five years, construction can now begin.

“A modern school, fit for the 21st century, is what the children of Saddleworth deserve.

“I am only sorry so many children, who expected to attend the new school, have been disappointed.

“However, let us now look to future and focus on getting our good community school moved to a building and site that meets its needs.”

Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding, confirming the judicial review deadline passed on July 29, said: “This is good news.

“It is a huge step forward for the scheme and we are pleased this hurdle has been overcome.

“We know there have been a number of false dawns in the past so we are currently working with the landowner, the school and the Department for Education to ensure progress is made and we deliver a new school for our children as they deserve the best facilities to learn in.

“We’ll be making further announcements over the coming months and updating you with how things are going.”

The news was met with delight by Saddleworth Liberal Democrat Councillor Garth Harkness.

He said: “I have always been clear from day one I want a new school wherever the Education Funding Agency saw it as appropriate.

“It has been clear for sometime that place was Diggle. There has been a lot of strong feeling about this and at times I have been met with abuse. We now need to move on from this.”

He went on: “The planning committee has come under some reasonable criticism recently and it is clear the process over Saddleworth School was not handled well in the past.

“But the scrutiny, process and attention to detail with regards to the recent Saddleworth school application has been excellent.

“Some people will not be happy with the outcome and there has been a lot of contention. We now need to make it work for everyone and deliver the new school.”

Joe Wheeler, a former head boy at the school, posted on social media: “Congratulations and thank you to everyone who has helped us get to the position we are finally at.”