Planners have given the go ahead to the first phase of a £5 million scheme to re-develop a Keighley sports stadium.

Keighley Cougars have won approval to rebuild the main stand at their Lawkholme ground.

And the £1.6m opening stage will also include the provision of a 3G pitch, a combination of grass and artificial turf which will enable it to be used more extensively without surface damage.

Chairman Gary Fawcett said: “It is an extremely exciting time for the club and we are delighted that the first phase of our plans has been approved.

“Now that permission has been granted we can begin to apply for funding. Many potential avenues are being explored, combining grants and loans and public donations.

“The introduction of the 3G pitch – the first in the championship – would mean that it could be used virtually 24/7 and for different sports. Currently if it gets any hammer, the pitch degenerates quite quickly.”

It is hoped that if funding is in place, work could start on the first phase at the end of this season – in the autumn – and be complete for the beginning of the next.

The wooden main stand, which dates from the 1930s, will be stripped back to its original steel frame, and then reconstructed to a new design.

Capacity will be increased to provide covered seating for 870 and new terrace space to the front.

Several organisations may potentially contribute towards the cost, including Sport England, the landfill tax fund, the Rugby Football League (RFL), the Rugby Football Union and the FA.

And it is hoped businesses might get involved, by donating or offering sponsorship in kind.

Further work, carried out in nine phases over about five years, would include the provision of modern changing rooms and redevelopment of the Cougar Park gym, education facilities and function suites.

The plans have been drawn up by Saltaire-based Riverside Design Studio Architects, working closely with the rugby league club, construction professionals and Bradford Council.

Mr Fawcett said there had been a massively positive reaction to the scheme since it was first unveiled.

The initiative has the support of the RFL, which has offered what practical help it can, and has been welcomed by Keighley MP Kris Hopkins and community leaders, who say it will provide a massive boost to the town.

“It is excellent news that the first phase of the club’s ambitious plans have been given the go ahead,” said Mr Hopkins.

“The new grandstand will dramatically improve the look of the ground and significantly enhance facilities for spectators.

“I am particularly pleased that a 3G pitch is to be laid. This will do a lot to increase the club’s ability to play host to other teams and community groups, building on its already well-established reputation for helping to bring people together.”