KEIGHLEY Cougars chiefs have refuted suggestions that revised plans for the club's ground redevelopment are a "backward step".

Last year, the Cougarmania Foundation – the rugby league club's charitable arm – was granted planning permission to demolish the existing stand, which dates back to the 1930s, and replace it with a modern 2,000-seater facility.

The regeneration project also includes classrooms, a cafe, fitness studio and health suite, all available for use by the public and designed to put the Lawkholme site at the heart of community provision.

Around £2.25 million was awarded towards the project from Keighley Towns Fund, a pot of Government money.

But now new proposals have been submitted to Bradford Council by the club, with the size of the planned stand downscaled.

The changes are attributed to a combination of rising costs, and Cougars' relegation to Betfred League One.

Alex Green, for agents AMG Architectural Ltd, said: "The design brief has changed following the relegation of Keighley Cougars to the next tier of the Rugby League and the reduced likelihood of promotion to the Super League.

"Following the securing of towns funding, inflation has required Keighley Cougars to reduce the size of the grandstand to enable the development to be deliverable within the current funding framework available."

The proposed changes have been discussed at a meeting of the Keighley Towns Fund board, which comprises public and private-sector representatives.

It heard that the planned stand capacity had been reduced to a minimum of 500 seats, but with capability to increase the number in the future.

Ryan O'Neill, Cougars' chief executive officer, told the Keighley News: "The redesign includes all the facilities from the original design, which will offer a fantastic community space for Keighley as well as the Cougars.

"The only significant difference is a reduction in the number of seats in the stand, however the design has been future-proofed by being able to add seats if required.

"We don't see the redesign as a backward step, but a pragmatic approach to getting the best value and focusing on facilities which will be of maximum benefit to the community. We actually increase the footprint of the stand by a considerable amount of square feet by utilising all the available space within Cougar Park.

"This is an exciting project and we are keen to get shovels in the ground."

A decision on the planning application is expected in March.