MULTI-million pound plans to build three new academy schools have won government support.

Durham County Council wants to build academies in Durham, Consett and Stanley - at a combined cost of about £75m.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker has confirmed he has approved the council’s Expressions of Interest for the academies.

The decision means the council and the academies’ co-sponsors can work to finalise detailed proposals next month.

Once government backing for an Outline Business Case is secured, academy governance arrangements can be drawn up and principals appointed.

The Consett academy will replace Moorside Community Technology College and Consett Community Sports College.

In Stanley, Greencroft School and Stanley School of Technology will close.

The Durham academy will replace Belmont School and Gilesgate Sports College and Sixth Form Centre.

In Durham and Consett, the co-sponsor is a Durham University-led consortium, while in Stanley it is New College Durham.

The council wants to open the Consett and Stanley academies in existing school buildings in September 2011, moving them into new premises in 2013.

The Durham academy is expected to open in existing school buildings in 2012 before moving into new facilities in 2014.

Councillor Claire Vasey, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: "These academies will bring outstanding new facilities and opportunities for young people.

"We will be working with lead sponsors who share our vision and our determination to build on the strengths of the existing schools and provide young people with the best possible education.

"I’m delighted that our expressions of interest for all three academies in County Durham have been approved and that we can now move on with the next stage in their development."

The plans have often attracted criticism. In Durham, residents successfully fought to prevent the academy being built on playing fields. A campaign in Consett is ongoing.