THE date was set last night for a public meeting that will see community leaders draw up battle plans to keep Hurworth School in the village.

It will take place next Thursday and residents are expected to turn out in force to voice their disapproval at plans to relocate the secondary school.

Hurworth Parish Council agreed to stage the event after dozens of people packed a meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss Darlington Borough Council's controversial proposals.

The council wants to close Hurworth School and struggling Eastbourne Comprehensive, in Darlington, and merge the two in a £20m project.

The new Hurworth School would be built on land off Yarm Road, Darlington, and would accommodate 1,200 pupils.

But, the plans to remove the school from Hurworth village have sparked uproar.

Tuesday's parish council meeting was attended by parents, pupils, primary school governors and councillors, all of who condemned the proposals.

The council has already agreed to send a letter to the secondary school's governors, urging them to reject the scheme when they meet tomorrow.

The board of governors had a representative at Tuesday's meeting, who was thought to be on a "fact-finding" exercise.

Chairman of Hurworth governors, Robin Mair, said last night: "We have our meeting on Friday and, in the interim, we have wanted to gather as much information as possible.

"Our parent governor Andy Roberts was at the parish council meeting and he will be informing governors of what was said there."

The borough council is guaranteed to receive £20m from the Government for a new school by 2011.

But it is putting pressure on the Department for Education and Skills to release the money sooner, to allow the project to press ahead.

Eamonn Farrar, acting headteacher of Eastbourne School, has again pledged his backing for the proposed development.

Mr Farrar, also a former Hurworth headteacher, is being lined up to become a new education "tzar" to increase standards in Darlington's schools.

He said: "Eastbourne is one of those in most need of the kind of support I'm going to offer.

"Everybody is fully aware of just how important it is that the school doesn't fall away again."

Eastbourne headteacher Karen Pemberton has been suspended after a damning audit report revealed what the borough council said were "serious concerns around the management of the school".

Next Thursday's public meeting is at 7.30pm in the village hall, with doors opening at 7pm.