PLANS to pave the way for a massive expansion of a high school in Clacton have been approved by councillors.

Blueprints were submitted for change of use as part of a land swap between Tendring Council and Essex County Council.

Clacton County High School wants to expand to cater for the growing number of pupils leaving primary school in the town.

It has been working with County Hall on the plans, which would see its sixth form relocated to the Tendring Education Centre, based at the site of the former Bishop’s Park College in Jaywick Lane.

The move will create room for the expansion at the school’s site in Walton Road, including a new ten-classroom block and four-court sports hall.

Tendring Council’s cabinet agreed last year to transfer land from the neighbouring Vista Road recreation ground in order to increase the playing field space at the school.

In exchange County Hall is giving Tendring Council extra land at Rush Green and will pay for improvements, including a new all-weather 3G pitch, new lights and a cricket net system, at Clacton Leisure Centre.

The planning application, which was unanimously approved by the council’s planning committee on Tuesday, includes the change of use of 4.5 acres of existing open space land next to the school playing fields in Vista Road and the construction of weldmesh metal fencing, as well the change of use of 3.4 acres of school playing fields in Jaywick Lane to open space land.

Peter Biggs, speaking on behalf of the councils, said: "The two applications are part of a much larger improvement scheme for Clacton County High School to provide for the current lack of secondary school places in the district.

"These proposals will bring significant benefits for the high school and the community, allowing the school to expand and will bring about refurbishments to the leisure centre."

Planning officers said the proposals are aimed at improving educational attainment within the town and that the mitigation measures mean the benefits of the proposals outweigh other effects.

Councillor Jeff Bray said the land exchange was a"win-win" for the town.

The district council received three letters of objection to the plans for Vista Road, raising concerns about the loss of mature trees and public open space, labelling the land swap a “token gesture”.

But Neil Gallagher, executive headteacher, previously said the move is needed as demand for places at the school has outstripped capacity for several years.

“This is a truly exciting development for the school and the town,” he added.

“Being able to extend our provision, particularly at post-16, will make a huge difference to the opportunities for our young people locally.”