MULTI-MILLION pound plans to extend and improve two schools have been backed by councillors.

Durham County Council’s county planning committee gave the go-ahead for work to begin on Wolsingham School and Community College and The Meadows School, in Spennymoor.

Wolsingham school, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, is split between two sites - the former grammar school, built in 1911 and known as the lower school, and the larger upper school, which dates from the 1970s and includes classrooms, a leisure centre, a swimming pool, playing fields and a car and bus park.

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Education chiefs want all 900 pupils aged 11 to 19 taught on the lower school site and the upper school classrooms demolished.

They proposed a three-storey extension to the rear of the lower school, to host classrooms, science laboratories, a sixth form centre, technical workshops, a performing arts hall, music rooms and recording studios.

Some neighbours objected, saying the modern-looking extension would be out of place in what is a conservation area.

Senior planning officer Peter Herbert said the design was “contemporary” but in his judgement the development would not have a significant impact on the existing grammar school.

Recommending the application be approved, he said it was a sustainable proposal, compliant with council policy and represented a significant investment for the benefit of 900 pupils.

Councillor Bill Moir said Wolsingham suffered “issues” due to its split-site nature but these would be resolved by the scheme, which was “very good news”.

“Young people are going to be educated on the same site, not have to move between sites,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Meadows School is to be remodelled, with a rear extension for a sports hall and gym with changing rooms, store rooms and an “enterprise zone” for arts, music and technology teaching.

The school has 65 pupils aged 11 to 18 with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties and is based in Whitworth House School, Spennymoor.

The extension will have a contemporary, modern design.

Both applications were recommended for approval and were approved unanimously.