A DOZEN parents are pitting themselves against a �2bn developer as they battle to build a new secondary on the former Elvian School site - instead of hundreds of new houses.

Members of the West Reading Education Network (WREN) were rejoicing last month when the Department for Education gave the go-ahead for a six-form entry secondary school to open in September next year.

But parents now have a fresh fight on their hands and have launched a "land for learning, not for housing" campaign after developers Taylor Wimpey launched an appeal against Reading Borough Council's decision last October to refuse permission for 193 homes on the land.

Campaigner Mischa Tytel said: "We object to the planned housing development and we really need the help of the community. If we can get 1,500 residents to object to the Planning Inspectorate in writing, we will be more than 50% of the way to getting the developer's appeal turned down.

"The developers are very powerful and every single pledge of support counts, so that we can get the message across to the inspectorate that local people want this land for a school."

Reading West MP Alok Sharma and borough education leader, Cllr John Ennis, are also backing the campaign and were both due to speak at a public meeting on the topic last night.

Mr Sharma said: "The Elvian site had a school on it for many years and it would be quite natural to have the site as the location for the new WREN school. Of course we need sustainable housing, but the local area has already taken a number of new developments and that requires the right infrastructure including more school places which we desperately need."

Cllr Ennis added: "We are expanding many of our primary schools in West Reading and that means we will need more secondary places too, so I was pleased when WREN's bid got the go-ahead. The council has always recognised that some or all of the Elvian site was needed for education, and there is already a school building, which could be refurbished, and ample playing fields, so it's really a no brainer that this is where the new school should be."

A template letter of objection can be found at www.wrenschool.org