A row has broken out over a family fun day.

The reason for the acrimony is that the organiser, Back Heathrow, is a lobby group committed to a third runway . The venue it chose – Minet Junior School – is owned by Hillingdon Council, which is implacably opposed to any airport expansion.

Just who said what to whom and when is still unclear, but what is certain is that the September 6 event at the school in Avondale Drive, Hayes, is cancelled – bouncy castle, petting zoo and all.

Back Heathrow said it made it perfectly clear when it booked the school’s playing fields and agreed a £40 an hour hire fee that it was a pro-expansion group.

Back Heathrow has been increasingly voluble in the past year or so since the Davies Commission has been considering the future of aviation in the south of England and the possibility of a third runway at Heathrow.

The council says Minet was unaware of who it was dealing with. But as one of the primary schools still under its control, the council was not about to let it be used as a venue for an event of this kind, ‘fun’ or not.

Council leader, Ray Puddifoot, said: “The council’s position is very clear - we are not in support of a third runway at Heathrow, therefore it would be inappropriate to host an event that actively promotes the delivery of a third runway at one of our schools.”

And in a letter to Roy Hill, the Minet chairman of governors, written on Tuesday, August 19, Dan Kennedy, the council’s interim head of performance and improvement, wrote: “I trust that the school will cooperate fully with the council’s direction and that immediate steps will be taken to inform the organiser of the event that it will not be going ahead.

“Finally, I require your confirmation in writing that you have fully complied with this direction.”

Mr Kennedy also set out the legal position. “Section 40 and Schedule 13[3] of The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 provides that a local education authority may give such directions as to the use and occupation of the premises of a community school as it thinks fit.

“The council considers that it is inappropriate for school premises in its ownership to be used to promote events by third parties which are linked to the future of Heathrow Airport.

“In the circumstances, I am writing to you [...] to direct that Minet School premises cannot be used to hold the Back Heathrow Family Fun Day on 6 September or indeed on any other date.”

Back Heathrow campaign director Rob Gray, second right, with supporters from a local freight company
 

Mike Appleton, of Back Heathrow, told getwestlondon.co.uk that he was disappointed by the council’s stance, and said although the fun day had a political message, it was not intended to be a political rally.

“If this was a placard-waving, screaming and shouting event we would understand it,” he said.

And he added: “If they are saying that Minet did not know who we were then that is not strictly true.

“As far as we are concerned we did make it clear to them.”

He produced a letter supporting the claim, written by Back Heathrow’s Anna Eaton on Monday, June 16, to Julie Field, the school’s deputy headteacher,

It states: “We are called Back Heathrow and we are a group of people, businesses and organisations who have come together to campaign for a secure future for Heathrow Airport and defend the 100,000+ jobs that depend on it.

“Most of our supporters are local people who live near Heathrow and have a close association with the many benefits it brings to the local community, and I’m sure many of the children at your school will have parents who are supporters of Back Heathrow.

“We want to say a big ‘thank you’ to the local people who support this campaign and we thought a great way to do this would be to hold a fun day during the summer holidays with things such as a BBQ [sic], bouncy castle, face painting and activities for all the family.”

Mr Hill said he had not been aware of the booking until he started to see flyers advertising it appearing in the area. He said it was not unusual for him not to be routinely informed of bookings, which were something the school handled.

He said: “Within our community we will have people who support the Back Heathrow campaign but many will not support it.

“We would be very amenable to community groups using our premises but we would not be amenable to a political campaign.

“The school’s premises are owned by the council and we have to abide by council policy but in any case the school would not want to be involved in backing an event that was a political campaign.”

He said the situation was ‘regrettable’, but he was not opposed to the council’s policy.

“It’s difficult but we are where we are.”

Mr Hill said at the next school governors’ meeting, the policy for hiring the school to outside bodies would be examined and a ‘firmer’ one introduced.

Back Heathrow has now written to as many people as possible informing them the fun day is off.

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