WHITMORE High School has been given permission to replace its sprawling, ageing blocks with a 'landmark' complex shaped like a lobster's claw.

Councillors sitting on Harrow Council's strategic planning committee passed the plans for the £31.5m new secondary school, in Porlock Avenue, West Harrow, on Wednesday evening last week.

Deputy headteacher Joe Donovan, who is also managing the project, said: "We are delighted with the planning committee's decision.

"We feel it is the result of a lot of hard work, consulting with all the groups involved and coming up with an innovative plan which will really make Whitmore a school for the 21st Century.

"Now we can get on with the practical work of getting the new school built to these exciting designs."

By swapping the outdated mainly one-storey premises for a compact two- and three-storey building, the mixed comprehensive will free up enough land to create an outdoor athletics track for the first time.

New multi-sports courts, a football pitch and playgrounds are promised, as are improved sixth form facilities, hi-tech science laboratories, modern classrooms, a kitchen and dining room, and workshops.

Construction is scheduled to begin next month and the new-look school should open in time for September 2010, when the number of pupils is likely to have risen by 300 to 1,500.

Whitmore High's replacement building will be constructed in stages around the existing building to allow the school to remain open throughout, with the help of 18 portable purpose-built classrooms.

Financing is coming from the Government's Building Schools for the Future fund which was set up to improve the nation's secondary school buildings.

Extra money will be ploughed in by Harrow Council to help pay for facilities that will be open to the public, including a large sports hall with spectator seating.

Headteacher Susan Hammond said: "We are looking forward to seeing the new school begin to emerge over the coming months."