The chief executive of the Catholic Education Service (CES) has written to the council saying a new Catholic secondary school would boost education standards in the borough.

Dr Oona Stannard, a former teacher at Twickenham Girls School, in Clifden Road, said the Catholic community in Richmond was shocked Richmond Council’s policy “now seems to be the subject of further debate and doubt”. She urged the authority, in a letter seen by the Richmond and Twickenham Times, to “not let the Catholic community down by permitting any impediment or delay”.

The CES negotiates, on behalf of all bishops in England and Wales, with the Government to promote Catholic education.

Dr Stannard’s lobbying of Richmond councillors has “incensed” campaigners opposed to the authority’s policy which supports what would be the only Catholic secondary school in the borough. Jeremy Rodell, co-ordinator of Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, said: “Some of the arguments Dr Stannard puts forward in this attempt to interfere in the local debate would be laughable if the issue were not so serious.

“How can she possibly justify the claim that a new Catholic voluntary aided school would provide the borough with ‘greater choice’, or make a ‘contribution to community cohesion’ when it would effectively be closed to the 90 per cent of local children who are not Catholics?”

Dr Stannard wrote: “Greater choice and diversity is exactly what it would achieve. It would enable Catholic parents to have the choice of a Catholic secondary school in their own borough – the choice that exists for parents in the vast majority of other London boroughs and elsewhere.”

She said that Ofsted statistics found that 51 per cent of pupils at Catholic schools made an “outstanding contribution to the community” compared with 38 per cent of students elsewhere.

Government data also showed Catholic schools were more ethnically diverse than others, she added.

Dr Stannard said: “The Catholic community understood that the debate and decision in council earlier this year in support of a Catholic secondary school was inviolate. They expected honest and urgent endeavour by the council. They put their faith in that process.

“They are shocked that the expectation of the first available and suitable site – the Clifden Road campus – now seems to be the subject of further debate and doubt.

“Like me, I daresay they trusted Richmond Council. I very much hope that you will maintain that trust and not let the Catholic community down by permitting any impediment or delay to the setting up of a Catholic secondary school.”