UPDATE: The judge has ruled that Richmond Council were within the law when approving the Diocese of Westminster’s proposals for two Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic Schools on the Clifden Road site in Twickenham. So, a judicial review victory for the Council and defeat for those campaigning for new borough schools to have inclusive admissions policies. The full details of Mr Justice Sales’ judgement are yet to come but the earlier than expected announcement was designed to remove uncertainty about planning for the next academic year. Richmond Council leader Lord True is “delighted”, the RISC are disappointed. Of course had the Council gone down the route of inviting free school or academy proposals as extolled by Cammo, Bojo & Co then a range of school options could have been considered and any faith based school would have had a maximum of 50% of places determined by selective criteria, unlike the 100% permitted under the special Voluntary Aided status.

The Baron is quoted in the LBRuT Press Release as saying that the outcome “supports the clear, democratic decision that was taken locally” and that the British Humanist Association had “elbowed its way” into the borough with “uncaring and unsympathetic” actions. He goes on to say that he trusts the BHA “will now accept the verdict that they themselves sought and let Richmond get on with building an even better education system for all. A period of silence from certain all too well ventilated local voices would also be welcome”. Ouch! Gracious words indeed. So folks, that was democracy in action, the will of the majority prevailed and anyone who says otherwise is an outside agitator. At least we’re all clear on that now.

RISC leader Jeremy Rodell said, “Obviously there will be a lot of people in Richmond who will be disappointed with this judgement. Our key point all along has been that it’s simply wrong to set up a new state school in the borough that will discriminate against most local children simply because of their parents’ beliefs. That remains just as wrong now as it was before”.

And so there we have it, a clear legal success for the Council although whether they can claim a moral victory too is entirely down to your personal perspective.

Where next? Well, the St Richard Reynolds School is now on track to open in 2013; we can be pretty sure that the Blue Baron & co will pull up the drawbridge on any further Voluntary Aided schools (there’s no need for them, it’ll be free schools and academies all the way from now on); the RISC and BHA will review the detailed outcome before deciding whether to take matters further; and of course the Council gets ready to face its next judicial review on another of its controversial decisions, the approval of Solum’s plans for Twickenham station.

For the Conservatives, could this become what the swimming pool site became for the Lib Dems? It’s certainly been a very divisive issue and although the next election is some time off, we doubt this will be the last we hear of this matter despite Lord True indicating that he would welcome “a period of silence”.

* Richmond Council
* R&TT