A HIGHLY rated post-16 education centre has won permission for an important facility to take it into the future.

Durham county councillors approved plans by Durham Sixth Form Centre to develop a new multi-media building within its existing seven acre-plus grounds, off Freeman’s Place and The Sands, near the city riverbanks.

As part of the development the existing car parks would be re-shaped and upgraded.

It would provide a total of 34 spaces compared to the existing provision of 32. Two accessible bays would be positioned near reception.

Addressing an area planning committee meeting, the school’s chair of governors, Dennis Southwell, said: “We are rated an outstanding school, deliver over 1,300 students and are the biggest in the North-East.

“We work in partnership with all schools who want to be partners and have applied for post-16 teaching school to assist other schools who have small post-16 education to assist their staff.

“Seventy five per cent of our students go off to university. And that is why as chair with the head teacher we have been pushing for a fit-for-purpose building which appropriate in a conservation area.”

He added: “Its coming to an end of where we pay £70,000 to 80,000 a year for a building that is being rented further along the road.

“We are looking to terminate that contract when it is completed and that should be around about the time this building can be completed. It has the value added of savings for the school.”

Recommending approval, planning officer Alan Dobie, said: “This development, next to the swimming pool, is in an up-and-coming area.

“The design is of a very modern approach, rather than traditional, which is in keeping with recent developments that have happened on the riverside and around that area.

“It is a site that is quite well screen and relative to the historical part of the site is well tucked away.”

Based on what was Durham’s former Girls’ Grammar School, which developed at the site in 1913, it was converted as a sixth form centre in 1983.

A separate application has recently been approved by Durham County Council, under delegated powers, enabling work to begin on the reconfiguration of the existing car park.

But as part of the latest application a new car park is planned to the north of the site, replacing those spaces lost by the proposed new building.