Northampton Saints enter talks over new £5m North Stand

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Media captionKey games stay at Gardens - Hewitt

Northampton Saints' board has agreed to enter formal negotiations with the town's council over a loan to fund a new £5m stand at Franklin's Gardens.

The club will also apply to Northampton Borough Council for planning consent for the new North Stand.

Saints' acting chairman Tony Hewitt said the move was an important step in the club's plans to expand the ground.

Council leader David Mackintosh said he was confident that negotiations could be completed quickly and diligently.

The club hopes to build the new stand in the summer of 2015.

'Lack of progress'

When completed, it will increase Franklin's Gardens' capacity from 13,591 to 15,500, giving Saints the ability to hold every regular season home game in Northampton.

It will have 1,900 seats, a new members' bar, an enlarged hospitality suite and 10 executive boxes.

There will also be a control room, TV studio and improved facilities for disabled supporters.

Mr Hewitt said: "Obviously all of the directors are aware that the development of Franklin's Gardens has taken a lot longer than we originally anticipated and that supporters may have been frustrated by an apparent lack of progress."

He said the club was now in a position to submit a full planning application "without any further delay".

A full public consultation would take place, he said, and the club would complete deals to buy land to the north of the stadium, enabling the stand to be built.

'Speaks volumes'

"It is also important to remember why we have taken our time, making sure that the club's long-term sustainability remains unharmed," he said.

Mr Hewitt said that in a year's time the club would have paid off all its debts and by building the new stand would be able to capitalise on the 2015 Rugby World Cup, for which some matches will be played at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes.

Mr Mackintosh, Conservative council leader, said: "It speaks volumes that in a climate where professional sports clubs have taken on more and more debt that the Saints are actually in a position where they are about to become debt-free.

"This makes me confident that an investment from the borough council would be well placed.

"Not only is the Saints on a solid financial footing, but the expanded Franklin's Gardens would enable the club and the town as a whole to benefit from Rugby World Cup 2015, bringing more people into Northampton to watch top class rugby."

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