Parents campaigning for a new free school have suffered a setback after councillors began a campaign against its preferred location.

Those behind Gladstone School have applied to Brent Borough Council for planning permission to use the site of the former William Gladstone School in Gladstone Park, Cricklewood.

The school, which would accept pupils from across Barnet, would open in September but Brent’s Liberal Democrats have begun a petition to ask it to find another site.

Headteacher Paul Phillips said: “We are distressed to hear about this petition. Parents say they would be pleased to see a school where the old one used to be - it will improve a near-abandoned bit of land.

“It will not affect the fabulous acres of beautiful open space we all treasure in the nearby Gladstone Park - indeed it would probably enhance it.

“While of course we will keep searching, we will need to start making a decision. It is a much-needed new school.”

If approved the school would be built between Gladstone Park Gardens and the railway line, and Campbell Gordon Way to Oxleys Road.

Gladstone Playing Fields were given protection from inappropriate development after the previous school closed in 1992.

But Brent’s Liberal Democrats say that while they support the idea of a new school in the area, the park is in a “loved” part of town.

They claim the site has poor transport links, and parking congestion and traffic would increase enormously.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Alison Hopkins said: “We welcome Gladstone Free School’s commitment to consultation.

“Given the proposed school seeks pupils spread across Brent and Barnet we encourage it to continue to look at previously developed land, which may mean widening the area of search.

“We cannot support building on Metropolitan open land, which has the same level of protection as green belt land does in the countryside. Once green space has gone it is gone for ever.”

A public consultation about the plans will be held on Monday, January 27 from 6pm to 8pm at The Crown Moran Hotel, Cricklewood.