A decision on whether to approve a new school building and sports facilities for children outside mainstream education has been put on hold.

Plans to build a larger, more modern building at the site of the Pavilion School, Whetstone, will be reconsidered after councillors have visited the location to assess the potential impact on neighbours.

Barnet Council planning officers had recommended approving the proposals for a new two-storey school building, car park, sports pavilion and multi-use games area.

The plans involve knocking down the current structure and building a new one “partially on the existing car park and playing field to the north-east of the site”, a council report says. Pupils would be taught in a temporary school building while work is carried out.

But at a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday (May 13), councillors agreed to delay giving their verdict after neighbours warned the scheme would harm their quality of life.

The Pavilion School is a pupil referral unit – an institution set up to cater for children who are not able to attend a mainstream school.

Speaking in favour of the application, Pavilion School head teacher Joanne Kelly said the current facilities were outdated and served to reinforce the negative feelings of pupils attending the school.

“These are the most vulnerable children in Barnet, and they are being let down,” she said. “Young people and staff are entitled to a building that is fit for purpose.

“Pupils and staff need to see that Barnet is prepared to invest in them.”

But John O’Neill, who lives in Oakleigh Park North, spoke against the plans. He said: “The building will have an overbearing impact on us, completely destroy our outlook, environment and surroundings, making us feel enclosed. It will have a major impact on our quality of life.”

Cllr Sachin Rajput (Conservative, Oakleigh) told the meeting he opposed the plans in their current form due to the potential impact on neighbouring properties at the eastern side of the development.

He suggested moving the siting of the new school building a few metres further away from the houses, claiming this would significantly reduce the detrimental effects of the scheme.

Several councillors said they had tried to visit the site before the meeting but had been unable to do so, as building work had blocked their access.

Cllr Stephen Sowerby (Conservative, Oakleigh) said: “I know the site very well as a ward councillor, but members of this committee are not acquainted with it.

“There is obviously a significant impact, and I think members need to be able to judge that by seeing the site. If they have not seen it, I think it will be detrimental to decision-making.”

Councillors voted unanimously to defer the application, meaning it will be considered again at a future meeting of the planning committee.

Committee chairman Cllr Shimon Ryde (Conservative, Childs Hill) said he would “work with officers and the borough’s Covid experts to ensure we can organise a visit that is both safe and will be sufficient for the reason for our deferral”.

A separate application for the temporary school building was approved unanimously.