Catholic families were today one step closer to their dream of getting a new faith school, after the council announced it had found a potential site.
Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said it planned to buy the Richmond Adult Community College (RACC) building, in Clifden Road, Twickenham, and offer the Catholic Church a chance to bid to run the school.
The authority will use the other half of the four acre site to build a new primary school.
More than 1,100 people signed a petition earlier this year calling for the council to hand control of a new secondary school to the Catholic Church.
Lord True said: “Almost 10 per cent of our residents who are of the Roman Catholic faith currently have to send their children out of the borough for an education of their choice. We want to play our part in putting that to rights.
“As I have made clear, our door is open to co-operation with the Catholic archdioceses – the opportunity is now for them to come forward and make that hope a reality. The lack of a potential site is no longer a reason for not doing so. We look forward to working positively with them.”
Richmond is currently one of two boroughs in London without a Catholic secondary school.
RACC decided on Wednesday, July 13, to sell the Clifden Road site for an undisclosed sum and will use the cash to refurbish its other centre, in Parkshot, Richmond. It will expand Richmond Business School, build a new Richmond Art School and upgrade facilities for disabled learners.
The college will move out of its Twickenham site in 2014 but will still rent rooms from the council for evening classes.
Negotiations with the Catholic Church are soon to begin and it is hoped pupils will be able to start at the new secondary school, which will be in the existing Edwardian building, by 2013.
The authority has faced fierce criticism from the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, which claimed its plans for a new faith school were about “exclusivity and privilege” and contradicted its own policies on diversity.
Accord, which includes a coalition of Muslim, Hindu and Christian organisations, has also spoken out against the proposals.
However, Lord True denied the plans were contentious and said both Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors supported them at a council debate in April.
He said: “There are always naysayers who draw attention to themselves.
“There’s a minority of people with a doctrinaire position to voluntary aided schools. This is not just against a Catholic school, these people are opposed to Christian schools and denominational schools in any form.
“My answer is I simply disagree with those people and they are in my judgement a minority and in my experience hugely outnumbered by those who would like to see this school.”
In a poll by the Richmond and Twickenham Times, 63 per cent of 231 respondents disagreed with the idea Richmond should have a Catholic secondary school.
The council is due to approve the plans at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, July 21.