A new primary school can open on a public park this September but its founders have been urged to find a more suitable permanent site.
Floreat Education's temporary planning application to install two prefabricated buildings on Brent Lea Recreation Ground, Brentford, for two years was approved by Hounslow Council's planning committee last night (Thursday, June 4).
However, councillors made it clear the school would have to move from the site in London Road once the two years are up, denting hopes of making the park Floreat Brentford's permanent home.
Councillors voted eight to four in favour of the plans, with Conservative councillors John Todd and Sheila O'Reilly, and Labour councillors Mel Collins and Tony Louki, who represent the wards of Brentford and Osterley & Spring Grove respectively, those objecting.
The decision was met with cries of "shame" from the public gallery, where around 20 opponents, including members of Hounslow Green Party and Friends of the Earth had gathered.
Campaigners had earlier organised a protest outside Hounslow Civic Centre, where the meeting took place, chanting "Save Our Rec" at councillors and school supporters entering the building.
Councillor Liz Hughes, who voted in favour, said: "I'm very concerned we won't have enough places for school children. If this was an application for a permanent school on Metropolitan Open Land I would be against it, and I will vote for an enforcement order if they're not off this land by September 2017.
"I find myself between a rock and a hard place. I have to consider how I would feel if it was my children and my community, and I think it's not unreasonable to ask them to give up this land for two years."
Mr Louki branded the application a "stalking horse", which he claimed would pave the way for the school to open there permanently if no other site can be found. He said he feared it would set a precedent for the loss of more public open space in the borough.
The school plans had sparked a public backlash, with opponents claiming open space in the area was already at a premium given the amount of new flats built or in the pipeline. Critics had also raised concerns about the impact on traffic and parking in surrounding roads.
But they also had plenty of supporters, not least the parents of the 30 children who are due to start school there in just three months, one of whom spoke at the planning meeting.
Council officers had claimed the demand for primary school places met the special circumstances needed to build on Metropolitan Open Land, which is afforded the same protection as the Green Belt.
But campaigners disagreed and claimed before the meeting they would appeal the decision to the Mayor of London and communities secretary Greg Clarke should permission be granted.
The two-form entry, non-faith free school will take up just under a seventh of the park, where it will erect two single storey buildings. There will be no parking on site, and staff and students will use the public entrance. The school must return the land to its original condition once it vacates the site.
A permanent planning application had been expected to follow the temporary one but local opposition may force the school and the council, which had recommended the site, to reconsider.
No plans for a permanent building have been produced but, if forthcoming, it is expected it would take up just over a third of the park's northern end. The council has said rental income would be used to improve facilities in the remainder of the park.
Floreat Education's managing director James O'Shaughnessy told councillors: "We will never stop looking for alternatives because I do understand this is controversial locally."
Council officers said hundreds of other sites had been considered for the school, including the old Brentford police station, but all had been either unsuitable or unavailable.
They told councillors the Commerce Road site, which is currently a bus garage, was not expected to be available for another five years.
They also said the nearby Acton Lodge site, a former day centre for people with disabilities, which has been demolished by the council, was not suitable for a school as it was too narrow.
Mr O'Shaughnessy said: "We have been working for more than two years in the community to build support for the school because research identified a desperate need for places in the town which wasn't being met.
"We have 30 children whose parents have chosen our school over other options, as well as dozens of people who have signed a petition in support."
He also pointed out that one of the lead objectors, Denis Browne, of the residents' group Brentford Community Council, had written to the council back in 2009 suggesting the park as a possible school site.
Mr Browne responded that a lot had changed in the last six years, with the number of new flats being built meaning there was more demand than ever for open space locally.
Joanna Russell, who lives on Brent Lea estate, opposite the rec, pointed out a council report written just over a year ago had described the park as "a high quality, high value site which should be respected and maintained". She asked what had changed since then.
A council officer said it had received 67 letters of objection and a 101-signature petition opposing the application, and 21 letters in support.