A PLANNING application for work to prepare Darlington RFC’s ground for use by the Quakers will be submitted within weeks, officials say.
Officers at both clubs say it is now “full steam ahead” to get Blackwell Meadows ready for the football club’s arrival after the rugby club approved the plan.
Members of the rugby club voted in favour of the groundshare at an emergency meeting on Monday night.
Of the 71 people eligible to vote, 57 voted in favour of the partnership.
Tony Stowe, Darlington RFC secretary, said: “We’re pretty excited – this is something that has been a long time in the making and now we can really move forward with intent, as can the football club.”
Mr Stowe said a working group including members of the rugby club and football club, as well as architects and consultants had already prepared plans, schedules and costings for the improvements.
“Submitting the planning application will be the next significant step which will happen within weeks,” he added.
A new entrance to the clubhouse is proposed, along with an extension to the lounge.
Terracing will be created at the west end of the main pitch and a temporary stand currently erected at Bishop Auckland FC’s Heritage Park will be brought to Blackwell Meadows.
New fences will also be built around the pitch and ground.
Mr Stowe said discussions would take place with Darlington Borough Council about additional parking in a field beside Grange Road and changes to the entrance road.
Martin Jesper, chief executive of Darlington FC, said: “There has been a lot of momentum over the last couple of months and this decision will reenergise everybody to try to make the groundshare happens.”
Mr Jesper said the club aimed to move back to Darlington for the start of next season, although it had agreed to use Bishop Auckland’s ground if the move was delayed.
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman welcomed the outcome of the vote.
She said: “Sharing facilities at Blackwell Meadows makes good sense for both clubs.
“It's been a bumpy journey and there's still a great deal of work to do but I'm more optimistic than I've been in a long time about the future of Darlington Football Club.”
Darlington Borough Council said it was pleased that an agreement between the two clubs was now in place.
A spokeswoman added: “We look forward to assisting with further advice as the proposals progress in more detail.”