The council will debate a controversial proposal to give one of two new secondary schools to the Catholic Church.

Campaigners submitted a petition to Richmond Council, which 1,105 churchgoers and Catholic parents signed, prompting the authority to table it for a public meeting at York House, in Twickenham at 7pm on Tuesday.

Richmond Council leader Lord True called for councillors to help petitioners “realise their hopes”. The Archbishops of Southwark and Westminster support the plans.

But Jeremy Rodell, chairman of South West London Humanists, expressed concern the Catholic Church’s “big guns” had stepped into the debate.

He said: “Between 80 and 90 per cent of residents are not Catholic.

“What evidence is there they want taxpayers’ money to go into a new socially divisive school, with policies that favour only a minority? Surely fair-minded Catholics do not want that either.”

The council’s headquarters will today host a European Committee for Catholic Education reception, with the theme The Formation of Leaders for Catholic Schools.

Lord True said: “I am delighted more than 1,100 residents, who called for a Catholic secondary school, will, under our new people-first council procedures, be able to hear their elected representatives debate the issue in public.

“This administration promised it would try to enable a Catholic secondary school. Richmond is one of only two London boroughs without one, even though we have a large Catholic population and superb Catholic primaries.

“I hope the whole council will unite around this vision and help petitioners realise their hopes.”