Wales

Pontypool RFC ground upgrade approved by Torfaen council

Artist's impression of the new Pontypool Park Image copyright Franks + Toms Architects
Image caption Artist's impression of the revamped Pontypool Park, with the new fence around the outside

One of Wales' most famous rugby clubs has taken a major step to securing the future of its ground after plans for an upgrade were approved.

Pontypool RFC had said it would leave Pontypool Park in July after 73 years because of concerns over vandalism.

But the club's plans to enclose the grandstand, pitch and terraces with a 2.4m (8ft) fence were approved by Torfaen council on Tuesday.

Chief executive Ben Jeffreys said it was a "significant development".

The club looked set to move after several decades at its ground, but reversed the decision in January after talks with the council saw a historic covenant, which did not allow protective fencing on the grade-II listed park, amended.

One objector to the plan said the park would become an "eyesore".

Image copyright Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images
Image caption Graham Price and Pontypool hosted New Zealand in 1989 but lost 6-47

But Mr Jeffreys said the design would "look after everybody's interests".

"We are doing it because we care about the town, we care about Pontypool and we care about this club," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"This is a hugely significant development and gives real hope to our supporters that Pontypool RFC will be able to remain at its rightful home for decades to come.

"For several months, we have been working incredibly hard to navigate through some exceptionally challenging legal components that all have to be overcome to ensure our dream becomes a reality."

Image copyright Allsport UK/Getty Images
Image caption David Bishop kicks the ball for touch during a match against Australia in 1984, which the hosts lost 18-24

Councillor Gaynor James said the protective fencing was needed to stop "dangerous" anti-social behaviour.

"If we lost Pontypool rugby club from Pontypool it would be part of Pontypool's heart ripped out," she added.

The plans include a renovated grandstand, with new seating, side screens, a replacement scoreboard and new player dugouts.

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