Preston Grasshoppers celebrate artificial pitch approval

Preston Grasshoppers ground. Lightfoot Lane, Fulwood
Preston Grasshoppers ground. Lightfoot Lane, Fulwood
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A rugby club is to become one of the first in the country to play on an artificial pitch, after plans were give the go-ahead.

Preston Grasshoppers is set to follow the likes of Saracens and Newcastle Falcons by playing games on an artificial surface.

An application was lodged by the game’s governing body, the RFU, to replace the club’s main pitch at Lightfoot Green Lane with a 3G alternative, and was unanimously approved by councillors.

Preston Council’s planning committee debated the proposals at a meeting this week, and all 12 members voted in favour of the scheme.

Grasshoppers general manager Richard Ellis said the club was “delighted” the plans had been given the go-ahead.

He said: “It’s an investment in rugby in the area from the Rugby Football Union, and Hoppers have been selected as one of six pilot areas to do this and we are the only one in the North West to get it at this point.

“Then they are going to roll it out to 60 clubs.

“So it’s quite a lot of kudos for Preston itself and Grasshoppers.

“We are really pleased it was passed unanimously.”

Mr Ellis said, last season, the club lost about eight weeks of training for youngsters due to waterlogging, but said: “Now we’ve got an artificial pitch we can guarantee rugby.

“Now we’ll have this top-class facility.”

He said the RFU would be bringing schools and colleges to use the pitch, and other local clubs could also use it.

He said: “It’s just great for rugby in the area, it will really increase participation.”

Recommending the plans for approval, a report to the committee said: “No objections have been received.

“It is considered that the principle of the proposal is acceptable as the development would not result in the loss of a recreation facility.

“The proposal would replace an existing playing field with an artificial pitch and is considered to provide better quality recreation provision by enabling longer periods of use throughout the year for the purposes of rugby games and training.

“The design of the proposed pitch, the materials proposed, and the siting of the storage container and floodlights are considered to be acceptable.”

It said, subject to conditions, the plans were acceptable in terms of the impact on neighbourhood amenity and drainage.