A SCHOOLS adjudicator has ruled Hillingdon Council can expand Whitehall Infants and Junior Schools against the wishes of parents and governors.
The Whitehall Infants and Junior Schools, in Cowley Road, Uxbridge, had appealed to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, to ask them to overturn Hillingdon Council's decision. But on Thursday they discovered the adjudicator had in fact rubber-stamped the proposals.
However, the adjudicator's backing is only valid if the council can obtain planning permission by July 31 and parents are now hoping to block the plans, making the approval void.
The adjudicator visited the school on January 26, and this weeks published the decision. Each year group will in future accommodate 120 pupils, however a deal was struck with the adjudicator that the school will take on no extra pupils this September.
Andrew Baxter, schools adjudicator who visited Whitehall, said: "The council is under an absolute duty to ensure an adequate supply of school places, and clearly needs to ensure that the projected increase in pupil numbers is accommodated. Whilst the expansion of these schools will present organisational challenges, both during transition and when the proposals have been fully implemented, I judge that it is manageable in all the circumstances.
"The success of these proposals is absolutely dependent on the successful implementation of the council's plans for the buildings works."
Hillingdon Council must now engage in a race against time, to submit detailed planning applications of the buildings, with the management of traffic on Cowley Road a hugely contentious planning issue.
The borough now have just under five months to secure this. Any mistakes in the plans could see it blocked by councillors who sit on the committee, and who have to make independent judgements based purely on planning legislation.
Given the time frame the council is effectively looking at a one-shot deal, as most applications take months to be validated and assessed before they come to committee.
The Whitehall School campaign group said in a statement: "Not the response we were hoping for but not all bad news. Opposition to the planning application is now even more important."
The school are appealing to any of their supporters with planning expertise to help them pinpoint any holes in the council's application.
So far no application has been submitted. Hillingdon Council made no comment on whether getting plans approved by July was feasible or not.
Jean Palmer, deputy chief executive, corporate director planning, environment, education and community services, said: "We welcome the findings of the school's adjudicator. This now allows us to continue to work closely with Whitehall infant and junior schools to ensure that all children in the Uxbridge area are able to have a reception class place as close to home as possible."
The borough added they were still working on plans to increase reception places in the Uxbridge area from this September.