COUNCIL planners have approved a multi-million pound scheme to merge a school split over two sites and create state-of-the-art sports facilities.

St Joseph's Catholic Comprehensive will demolish the lower school in Queens Drive and construct a new building to take in the upper school on the site.

In addition the school will be the envy of others across the borough, as the development will include an all-weather pitch, rugby and football fields, four cricket nets, an athletics track and four five-a-side pitches.

The sports facilities on site currently comprise a number of pitches and tennis courts.

Headteacher Peter Wells said: "This is very good news for all at the school.

"It's an indication that the town's education system is on the up after a series of difficulties over the past few years."

The new school will face east with a special junction constructed to provide access from Ocotal Way. And the development the biggest ever investment by the Clifton Diocese has been designed to maximise energy efficiency and provide a safe and friendly environment.

St Joseph's opened in 1958 as a Catholic school for children aged between 11 and 15 and has been split over two sites ever since it combined with St Thomas More School and opened as a single institution in 1985.

The sports facilities are sure to capture the imagination of many prospective pupils with athletics and cricket in particular given special prominence in the new development.

An artificial cricket wicket and oval, long jump pit, shot discus and high jump segment and indoor sports hall also form part of the plans.

Despite the development being one of the most expensive and ambitious the borough has ever seen, it is likely to cost Swindon Council, the education authority, very little.

The Upper School, which is based in Nythe Road, will be demolished and the site probably sold for housing with the cash used to fund the new accommodation.

The council has agreed to pay £1 million towards the project, but its share in the sale of the Upper School site will cover that.

In addition Clifton Diocese will contribute £7 million towards the school and the final £9 million will come from the Department for Education and Skills.

Chris Van Roon (Con, St Margaret) said: "These sports facilities do sound very exciting indeed."