Lancashire have had their planning application approved to redevelop Old Trafford in conjunction with a Tesco development near the ground. The plans still need to be signed off by the north west government office, but it means the club are a major step closer to being able to start the work that is needed to secure international cricket at the venue.
Building work has to start shortly after the 2010 season finishes if the construction deadlines set down by the ECB for bringing the ground up to standard are to be met. If the plans are called in by the government at any stage the whole process will be in jeopardy due to the delays, but this latest decision has eased concerns.
Lancashire have been told they must redevelop Old Trafford if they want to retain international status. They are hosting a Test match between England and Bangladesh in June, but the county wouldn't have been granted future fixtures without assurances that stadium would be improved. The ultimate aim is to bid for a 2013 Ashes Test after Lancashire missed out on a game during the 2009 season.
"This is an historic decision for the future of international cricket in the north west - we can now press on with redeveloping the famous Old Trafford cricket ground and securing our place as one of the world's best cricketing arenas," said Jim Cumbes, the Lancashire chief executive
"The planning committee recognised the important role the club plays in supporting Trafford's economy - especially through hosting international matches like the Ashes. They also backed our plans to deliver a much-needed new retail offering, hundreds of local jobs, and millions of pounds in regeneration to this part of the borough.
"With construction work now scheduled to start in the autumn, I would personally like to thank everyone who has backed our proposals. We have been overwhelmed by the level of support and encouragement we have received."
The ground has already undergone some significant work with a new development named The Point near completion, but the most extensive changes will come with the next phase. The extensive plans for the ground involve new player and media facilities, improved stands, permanent floodlights and the turning of the square so that it no longer faces east-west and encounters problems with the setting sun.
The club have entered a joint partnership with Ask Developments and Tesco, the supermarket company who will build a superstore on nearby Chester Road and help fund the ground development. Trafford Council said that by the end of January it had received 947 letters of support over the proposed development and 263 objections.