AMBITIOUS multi-million-pound plans to transform Keighley's Cougar Park have been given the go-ahead.

The scheme will see community facilities rejuvenated and put the rugby league club at the heart of provision in the town.

Classrooms, a cafe, fitness studio and health suite, all available for use by the public, are part of the massive regeneration project.

"The focus is very much on the community," says Steven Watkinson, Cougars' chief operating officer.

"Our hope is that the redevelopment will help bring people together in the town and break down barriers."

The Lawkholme club's charitable arm, the Cougarmania Foundation, submitted a planning application to Bradford Council earlier this year.

Planners have now approved the proposals, which in addition to the community provision include the demolition of the existing stand – which dates back to the 1930s – and its replacement with a modern, 2,000-seater structure.

Around £2.25 million has been awarded towards the project from the Keighley Towns Fund, and match funding from other sources is being investigated.

"We currently have a number of applications ongoing with potential funders," Mr Watkinson said.

"Our aim is to maximise the overall funding to allow us to provide the best possible community facilities.

"The focus is on the community side, bringing the town together and breaking down barriers.

"There may be some amendments to the approved plans, depending on the final funding situation. This will be decided over the coming weeks.

"Work is expected to begin before the end of this year, but there a lot of 'moving parts' at the moment."

He says the disappointment of relegation from the championship at the end of last season will not affect the plans.

"The rebuild on the pitch for next season is already underway," he added.

"We've had to put relegation behind us fairly quickly and move on with the 'next job in hand', which is building a sustainable squad that can compete in League One and is a half step towards a championship team."

As well as increasing capacity, the new stand will provide modern changing facilities for both the home and away teams, along with a media room/pen and function rooms, plus the community facilities.

During a visit to the ground earlier this year, the Government Minister for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities, Stuart Andrew, voiced his support for the venture.

He said Cougar Park "encompassed the soul of the town".

And the scheme is also welcomed by the town's Conservative MP Robbie Moore and by Labour parliamentary candidate and former MP John Grogan, who was a member of the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group.