THE biggest development in the history of a North-East college was approved last night.

Bosses at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, in Darlington, were delighted when councillors backed plans for a £2.5m extension.

The project - which was approved despite significant opposition - represents the third major investment for education in Darlington in the past four months.

It follows the announcements of an education village and the £27m relocation of the College of Technology.

Barratt Homes will build 61 houses on land adjacent to the college, bringing in the money needed to fund a revamp and extension of the wing facing Abbey Road.

The drama centre, hockey fields and tennis courts will be lost, but the nearby Abbey Road playing fields will be enhanced by the building of a pavilion, a perimeter fence and the installation of security cameras.

Principal David Heaton said: "The motivation behind this application was not personal or commercial gain, but to provide the best possible facilities for the young people of Darlington."

Council leader John Williams gave his support, saying: "If fresh investment wasn't put in it would threaten the future academic success of the sixth form college.

"This application is a vital one to the whole town and borough."

The scheme was opposed by some local people and the Friends of Stanhope Park.

Friends' representative Jenny Morton told the meeting: "We do not wish to prevent the development of redundant land for housing.

"We do not wish to see Stanhope Park suffer from further pressure which may result from such developments."