Saints reveals formal application for ground extension will be submitted soon

PLANS to expand Northampton Saints’ stadium have taken a major step forward after it was announced the club has taken the first step towards submitting a planning application to the borough council.

The Saints announced revised plans last September to build a new stand at Franklin’s Gardens, replacing the Sturtridge Pavilion, which would increase the capacity of the stadium from 13,500 to 15,500.

Tony Hewitt, deputy chairman of the Saints, said yesterday that a pre-planning document had been given to the borough council and a full planning application was likely to be submitted by autumn this year.

Mr Hewitt also announced that a public consultation on the plans, which involve the building of a 2,500-seater stand including 10 corporate boxes, a function room, television studio and a bar, will be held in June.

Asda is still the proposed partner in the project and a supermarket would be built on land off Edgar Mobbs Way currently used by Saints fans for car parking.

Mr Hewitt said; “We are working flat out with Asda to sort out all the side agreements that are needed and we are very close to that being done. We don’t want to stand still as a club, we want to keep moving forward.”

Mr Hewitt said if the planning application was successful the new stand would be built during the close season and could be ready by September 2013.

Allan Robson, Saints chief executive, said: “The different thing about Northampton Saints is that we have a business model. The club supports itself and is able to compete at the highest level using its own profits.

“To get more people in the ground will give us more income to support all areas of the club and help make the club the best it can be.”

Mr Robson said the club had chosen to expand by 2,000 seats as this would increase the stadium’s capacity but would not lead to swathes of empty seats.

He said: “We had to be sensible about the expansion plans.

“If we’d gone to 30,000, for example, we know we couldn’t fill it but we wanted a capacity we would be able to fill each week.”

During public consultation events next month, the plans will be displayed at Franklin’s Gardens and people will be able to speak to the architect and club officials about the proposal.