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Saracens' plans get green light

Saracens' move towards becoming the first professional club to play home matches on an artificial pitch has taken a major step forward after planning officers gave the thumbs up for their plans to renovate the Barnet Copthall Stadium in north London.

The move would see the reigning Aviva Premiership champions play up to 16 matches per year on a new synthetic pitch which the club say has been approved by the Rugby Football Union and the International Rugby Board. They currently use Watford FC's Vicarage Road ground with some of their matches taking place at Wembley Stadium.

Nigel Wray, chairman of Saracens, said: "The recommendation to approve our planning application by council officers is a very positive step forward."

Saracens' application has been recommended for approval by London Borough of Barnet planning officers and now has to go to the planning committee for their agreement.

The stadium would be used as a multi-sport stadium, including as the home of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers and available free of charge to local schools.

Wray added: "We sincerely hope that councillors at Barnet will also be able to support the plans.

"The recommendation is the result of a thorough analysis of all aspects of the plans and a lot of hard work to develop the best possible scheme.

"Issues have been raised throughout the process, such as Green Belt policy and transportation. We have responded positively by amending our plans, providing further information and introducing robust safeguards.

"We are not a normal developer. We plan to make Copthall our home. We are therefore committed to working closely with the local community and becoming a part of it.

"We want and need local support and we will work hard for it. We absolutely promise that. We will treat local residents with respect and make a positive difference in the area."

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