A £36.1m investment which will see 1,900 pupils from two Hexham schools brought together on one site has been given the go-ahead amid protests from residents.

Pupils from Queen Elizabeth High School and Hexham Middle School will be located on the existing high school site, in a project which will see the retention and refurbishment of the Grade II listed Hydro building and Westfield House, with separate new buildings for the middle school and high schools constructed to the south and north.

There will also be new access points, car parking, bus parking and landscaping, including a new community garden area.

Protests had taken place on Monday by members of the recently-formed Hydro Neighbourhood Group, who had raised concerns regarding pupil safety at the new entrance point on Whetstone Bridge Road, increased traffic, and noise and light pollution from the sports pitches.

At Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning meeting on Tuesday, resident Wendy Breach spoke on behalf of Hexham residents who were concerned about climate change, stating that the development did not go far enough towards being carbon neutral. “Our concerns and positive suggestions have been dismissed or ignored,” she said.

As councillors stated their support for the scheme, one parent in the public gallery stood up to air her frustrations, saying: “I would like you to tell children striking for climate action about this.

“I can’t go back and tell my children anything good about this.

“You are letting them down.”

But planning consultant Anne Hargreaves said that Northumberland County Council had allocated £400,000 towards making the building sustainable. She also listed other benefits such as the ability for buses to remain on site throughout the day, reducing traffic and pollution; the new access being safer than current access on Allendale Road and 2,500 new trees being planted.

Executive headteacher of Hadrian Learning Trust, which oversees both schools, Graeme Atkins, said there would be benefits to co-location such as allowing teachers to work more closely and share resources. He said it would create a “learning environment that our young people deserve”.

Councillors agreed that the school buildings were in urgent need of updating. Coun. Barry Flux said: “It is important that we have the best facilities for our young people and this has been crying out for change for many, many years.”

The committee unanimously granted permission, subject to referral to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is required as part of the development falls in the Green Belt.

After the meeting Mr Atkins said: “We are grateful for all of the support and encouragement we have had thus far and look forward to making further progress with the development in the near future.”

Work will be in two phases, with the first being the refurbishment of the Hydro Building and Westfield House, the construction of new buildings to the rear, and completion of car parking and external hard courts and artificial sports pitches.