Northampton Saints to launch new stadium expansion plan

Northampton Saints have finalised new scaled-back plans to expand their ground, BBC Look East has learned.

The changes will increase the capacity of Franklin's Gardens to 15,500, rather than 17,500 as initially anticipated.

It is understood the club hope to begin work in the summer of 2013, assuming they are granted planning permission.

"Development of Franklin's Gardens is a long-standing issue, and we believe we can now see light at the end of the tunnel," said chairman Leon Barwell.

"Although we have had plans for the North Stand we have also been talking in abstracts about the timeline for the development.

"We are therefore very pleased to be in the position to confirm not just what the new North Stand will look like, but also when we intend for the development to take place.

"This gives us plenty of time to put together a planning application that takes into account every possible aspect and ensures that we will not be doing a rush job for the sake of it.

"The expansion of Franklin's Gardens is crucial in the long-term development of the club and we want to make sure we do it right."

Saints, who filled their ground to 98% of its 13,500 capacity on average last season, were forced to play a knock-out game of the Heineken Cup at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes last season.

The competition's rules state matches in the later rounds must be held at stadiums that can hold at least 15,000 people.

The new plans would bring Saints up to code, but the club are expected to still consider using Stadium MK should they face a big European side.

Plans to expand Franklin's Gardens have been in the pipeline for over two years, but these are the most concrete proposals the club has put forward.