PLANS to upgrade Pontypool RFC's historic ground into a "premier sporting venue" have been given the backing of council planners after receiving overwhelming support in the community.

The rugby club's plans to enclose the grandstand, pitch and terraces with a 2.4 metre high fence as well as making upgrades to existing facilities will be decided next week.

South Wales Argus:

How the ground could look

Chief executive Ben Jeffreys has said the proposal is a "key component to securing the club’s long-term future at Pontypool Park"- its home since 1945.

The club had threatened to leave the grade-II* listed park after being hit with vandalism and arson incidents.

However talks with Torfaen council in January resulted in an agreement to amend a historic covenant which did not allow protective fencing to be erected.

Since being lodged 20 letters supporting the plans have been sent to the council.

A range of politicians and other organisations have also voiced their support, including Gwent Police, Parkway Hotel, Cwmbran Rugby Club, Forgeside RFC, MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, AM Lynne Neagle, Girling RFC, Panteg RFC, Pontypool Community Council, Pontypool United, PSM Sportswear, Talywain RFC, Torfaen Leisure Trust, West Mon School and the WRU.

They say the plans will give Pooler the 21st century sporting facilities it deserves.

Two letters of objections were also lodged, with some concerns the protective fencing would have "a severe visual impact" on the park landscape.

Cadw, Welsh Government's historic environment service, and Torfaen council's conservation officer also say the style of the green mesh fencing proposed is not "in-keeping" with the park.

They recommend a lower fence no more than two metres high.

However planning officers say the overall improvements would make a "positive contribution" and that it represents "a significant investment" in the park.

Recommending approval, a planning report says the application will be decided on "whether the security needs of the club outweigh the impact of the fence on the registered park."

Community support for the plans, as well as the wider benefits of the club staying at its historic home should be given "considerable weight" in the decision, planning officers say.

Mr Jeffreys told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the club is 'hopeful' for a positive outcome at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

South Wales Argus:

Ben Jeffreys

He added: "We remain absolutely committed to ensuring we deliver a premier sporting venue that both our supporters and the people of Pontypool can be proud of and I am pleased with the level of progress that has been made."

Mr Jeffreys also said negotiations "surrounding the end goal of agreeing terms on a long-term lease are progressing in the right spirit and on schedule."