Twickenham set to increase capacity

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Plans have been approved for the development of Twickenham which will boost the stadium's capacity by 7,500 to 82,000.

The South Stand will be demolished and rebuilt and a new shop and offices are to be built for the Rugby Football Union. The development also includes a 200-bedroom hotel, restaurant, health and leisure club, conference and exhibition centre, basement parking for 200 vehicles and new ticket sales facilities.

It also involves the building of two blocks comprising 24 flats, with new access on to Rugby Road. New ticket gates and perimeter fencing will also be provided.

The application, submitted by the RFU in September 2002, will mark the completion of the stadium building programme started in the early 1990s.

It is the first application to propose a significant increase in capacity at the stadium, and to include some activities not directly related to the use of the site as a sports ground.

Richmond Council last night gave the scheme the thumbs-up, in an attempt to give the world champions, England, a home to be proud of. The Council leader, Cllr Tony Arbour, said: "This exciting scheme is of national and international importance as the stadium is the home of English rugby, a showpiece ground which focuses the eyes of the rugby world. The redevelopment will ensure it becomes truly fit for the world champions. It will also have major economic spin-offs for west London, providing a massive boost for employment and the economy of the region as a whole."

The planning committee chairman, Cllr Richard Hollis, added: "This is a massive, hugely significant development and the committee gave their approval following lengthy and detailed discussions and after taking into account the views of all interested parties." The scheme will now go to the Government Office for London and also to the Mayor for approval.

The former All Black captain, Taine Randell, will lead a strong New Zealand Barbarians team against England at Twickenham on 20 December.

The 21-man squad named yesterday includes several ex-New Zealand players and those on the fringes of national selection, as well as the Fijian, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, the South African, Jorrie Muller, and Samoa's Tanner Vili.

Another back will be added to the squad, which is coached by another former All Black, Bryan Williams.

New Zealand Barbarians: Forwards: T Woodcock, A Hore, F Tiatia, C Dowd, D Manu, N Maxwell, S Maling, T Flavell, T Randell (capt), X Rush, J Blackie, S Harding. Backs: D Lee, G Jackson, K Lowen, N Mauger, R Gear, R Caucaunibuca, J Muller, G Bond, T Vili.