A NEW school in Chalfont St Peter is in the pipeline - and it could be welcoming its first pupils as early as next year.

A formal planning application for a Free School - one which is funded by the government rather than a local authority - is set to be made next month and the group behind the plans hope to be given the green light in June.

The preferred site is at the former Holy Cross Convent School in the centre of the village, which closed in 2006 after the Roman Catholic charity which owned it withdrew its support.

The proposed school would be a faith school with a Catholic ethos, although only half of its pupils will be Catholic.

Parents of children in the village have said they would support the new school but those behind the plans face a battle to win planning approval.

Plans for nearly 200 new homes and a care home on the site have already been approved by Chiltern District Council, although these are being challenged by a judicial review at the High Court in March.

Other sites have been chosen in case the Holy Cross plans don't come to fruition but Rory Staunton, secretary of the steering group behind the proposals, said parents had been "overwhelming" in their support for the project.

He said: "Holy Cross is in the middle of Chalfont St Peter and it has all the facilities for a school, such as a science lab and a swimming pool, still there.

"It's in exactly the right position and there's several good reasons why that's the best site."

The first public meeting to discuss the plans was held at St Joseph's Catholic Primary School last night and Mr Staunton said: "We've been overwhelmed by the support from the parents."

More meetings are scheduled to take place around the Chalfonts and Gerrards Cross in the next few weeks. Go to www.freeschoolgerrardscross.org for more information.