A delay to building work on a controversial primary school expansion will not stop the scheme going ahead, according to the borough’s new schools chief.

Builders were due to move in to St Mary’s and St Peter’s CE Primary School, in Teddington, on July 5 and start work to enable the school to be enlarged from two to three forms of entry by September 2011.

Councillor Paul Hodgins, Richmond Council cabinet member for schools, said no work could begin at the Somerset Road school until full Government sign-off had been received.

He did, however, confirm the new Conservative administration at the council were committed to the scheme.

Coun Hodgins said: “I have spoken with concerned parents on many occasions and discussed their objections, which I fully understand.

“The outside space at our schools is already at a premium, and no one wants the disruption of a building project over two years while their children are trying to learn.

“However, I have to balance this with the growing demand we have for primary places in our borough, together with the limited options for space in the right locations, and our now very limited financial resources.

“I also have to take into consideration the views of the headteacher, the board of governors, and local councillors, all of whom are in favour of the project going ahead.

“One of our key manifesto pledges at the election was to ensure that our borough has enough primary places to supply the growing demand, which is why we have not felt that we could scrap this project [despite parents’ objections].”

Richmond Council’s planning committee approved the second design for the provision of additional buildings at the school earlier this year after the first had been condemned by sporting bodies including the Football Association and Sport England.

The Government Office for London backed the plans but parents have been critical of many aspects of it, including the lack of outdoor space for their children.

The first set of plans would have left the school with about a quarter of the outdoor space needed for team sports. Although the new scheme has increased the area available it still needs a Government relaxation on the amount of space before it can be built.

Coun Hodgins explained: “The relaxation order was applied for many months ago, but unfortunately a decision was not made before works were scheduled to start.

“If it is ultimately not granted, then legally the scheme cannot be completed.

“The Department for Education is currently considering the request, and I've been told that a report is going to ministers this week for a decision.”

Parents at the school have been in communication with Coun Hodgins and been critical of the way the scheme has been handled.

Graeme Tallantire, a parent, has been so incensed with the reaction of the new Conservative administration he has resigned from the party just over two months after standing for election as a Tory - a move described by Coun Hodgins as “unfortunate”.

Headteacher John Logan has also come in for criticism but has firmly backed the scheme and said he had every confidence it would be completed, although he admitted the delays could cause changes to the building schedule.

It is understood the delays may be costing £10,000 a week.

Coun Hodgins added: “The previous administration signed a letter of intent with the contractors for the project, and the penalties for the delay are only determined when the contractor makes a claim.

“This will be dependent on what happens with the project overall, and we will be working to minimise the penalties and the cost to our residents.”