The council has sparked an “extremely divisive” controversy over a proposed Catholic secondary school by not consulting all taxpayers, the leader of Richmond’s Liberal Democrat group has claimed.

Councillor Stephen Knight warned that Richmond Council’s hopes for the church to move into a site in Clifden Road, Twickenham, could cause serious damage to community relations unless it allowed all parents in the borough to have their say.

Thousands of campaigners have signed petitions supporting and opposing plans for what would be the only Catholic secondary school in Richmond.

The authority said it would only launch a consultation after Education Secretary Michael Gove decided whether to grant the church permission to move into the Richmond Adult Community College site.

But Coun Knight said he was concerned the council appeared to have already made its mind up by giving the church first refusal.

He said: “This is an extremely divisive issue among parents, divisive along sectarian lines in the community.

“Local taxpayers are contributing an extremely large sum of money to purchase this site.

“If we don’t want to divide the whole community and have a real community cohesion issue over this decision, then everybody has to feel their views have been heard and the decision that’s been taken considers all sides of the argument.

“At the moment it appears the council is hell bent on doing one thing and not listening to anybody else.”

He said Richmond’s Lib Dem group would table a proposal to ensure the council carries out a transparent decision making process to determine what type of school should go on the Clifden Road site if the authority “refuse to budge”.

Councillor Geoffrey Samuel, deputy leader of Richmond Council, said: “Technically there’s nothing to consult on at the moment, all we said was we would give the diocese first refusal.”

He said the church first had to convince the Education Secretary it should run the school and then make a commitment to pay its contribution towards the costs.

Coun Samuel added: “It may be that they will fall at one of those two hurdles. If the diocesan authorities get approval from the Secretary of State and then put up the money, what we will say to people is, ‘Here is the actual proposal for you to look at, are you for it or against it?’”