A £5 MILLION scheme to transform Keighley's Cougar Park will provide a huge boost to the whole town.

That was the message this week as more details were unveiled of the rugby league club's ambitious redevelopment plans for the Lawkholme ground.

The championship club's charitable arm, the Cougarmania Foundation, has applied to Bradford Council for permission to demolish the existing stand – which dates back to the 1930s – and replace it with a modern, 2,000-seater structure.

There would also be new community classrooms, a cafe, fitness studio and health suite, available for use by the public.

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

Subject to planning approval, it's hoped work on the scheme will start after the team's last home match in September. The anticipated timeframe for construction is one year.

The club says the initiative – which would see capacity in the stand increased by 300, in addition to the improved facilities – forms a central part of its ambitions to play in the Super League.

"To progress to Super League we would be required to have a certain capacity and onsite facilities, and current provision does not meet such requirements," said a spokesperson.

"The existing stand comprises of a steel portal frame with timber infill, whilst the rear parts are brick with ad hoc additions.

"As well as increasing capacity, the new stand would provide modern changing facilities for both the home and away teams, along with a media room/pen and function rooms, and the community facilities. Consequently, the benefits associated with the development would extend beyond just the rugby club."

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

He said Cougar Park "encompasses the soul of the town", adding: "It is only right that sporting clubs which play such an important part in a community have facilities which the town can be proud of".

Keighley MP Robbie Moore says: "Our mighty Keighley Cougars are going from strength to strength, championing brilliant causes both within and outside the sport, and I am delighted that Cougar Park will be dramatically changed for the better – for the benefit of the town and the fans – with a brand new stand, thanks to help from our Conservative Government's Towns Fund."

The plans are also welcomed by the town's former Labour MP, John Grogan, who was a member of the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group.

He says: "Keighley Cougars are the jewel in the town’s sporting crown.

"If the new plans are implemented, they will generate a feelgood factor way beyond the club itself.

"Next time the Rugby League World Cup comes to these shores I should like to think the facilities at Cougar Park will be good enough to stage a match or two."