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Cost of Catholic school challenge to Richmond Council revealed
The judicial review into the Catholic school decision cost Richmond Council almost £40,000, but the opponents will foot almost all the bill.
The council spent £32,499.40 on external legal fees for a High Court lawyer and work leading up to the case, plus £6,650.40 on in-house legal costs.
However, the majority of the cost will be paid by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (Risc), which brought the case against the council.
On winning the case, the council was able to reclaim most of its costs, which were capped at the request of both parties. Risc’s costs were capped at £20,000 and BHA’s at £15,834.
Despite the huge loss, Jeremy Rodell, from Risc, backed taking the issue to court.
He said: “The council’s action in pushing through as a top priority a new state-funded school that is effectively closed to around 90 percent of local children, and giving it the only site then available, was simply wrong.
“That they did so in a way that appeared to flout the new Education Act meant that it would have been irresponsible not to challenge them legally if we could.
“We didn’t appeal against Justice Sales’ decision both because of the cost, and because the likely timing of an appeal hearing meant the school would almost certainly have been allowed to go ahead, even if we had won, while creating a lot of needless uncertainty for parents and children.”
He said this was because a lot of work on applications and building had already been done, so it was unlikely a judge would rule against.
Head of legal services at the council, Paul Evans said: “I think the council showed an extremely inclusive and validated approach to the way it took the decision. I think it was a very good example of a council making a good decision in the way you are supposed to do it.”
Refurbishment works for St Richard Reynolds Catholic College are due to start in April, with the current costs for the first stage about £3m.
The council received 373 applications for a place at the secondary school, with 115 making the school their first choice, and more than 100 for reception.
Chairman of the interim governing body at the school Andy Cole said: “I think in a democracy, everybody should have a say. I regret some of the comments that were made, but they were down to a minority.”
For more information on the school, visit their new website at strichardreynolds.org.uk.