BARNET Football Club's future has been thrown into jeopardy after plans for a £7million redevelopment of its Underhill stadium were recommended for refusal by planning officers.

Under Football League rules, Underhill must have at least 2,000 covered seats by the end of the 2007/8 season next May, and the club has been told by the league that it risks expulsion if it fails to meet that target.

The ground currently has a capacity of around 5,300, but only 1,000 seats are covered.

The plans, being put to a Barnet Council planning committee on Wednesday, include the building of new stands behind both goals, new floodlights and a changing room block.

But the planning officer's report says the building of the north stand would result in a loss of rear garden space for homes in adjoining Westcombe Drive, as well as being 'overbearing', 'visually obtrusive' and causing excessive levels of noise and disturbance.

The report also says that the proposed pavilion would be an inappropriate development on Green Belt land.

Council leader Mike Freer said: "The plans could be deemed to go against the Unitary Development Plan, which is a legal document. That would mean residents could take us to court. Then, if we grant planning permission over those gardens, those properties would suffer from planning blight and the council could be liable for compensation.

"I've had long conversations with the club and we want to help, but that doesn't mean we can break the law. In the short term, the club can achieve 5,000 seats on three sides, and leave the north side alone until they own all the properties in Westcombe Drive. I'm sure we will sort this out for the benefit of the club and the borough."

But Barnet FC chairman Tony Kleanthous argued that planning blight in Westcombe Drive would be avoided because the club was prepared to pay the market value to buy them. He said the club had already bought two of the properties and was in talks with other residents.

Mr Kleanthous said: "It's very difficult for us. You can't attract players when they know your club is going to be expelled from the Football League. People wonder if they're going to have a job at the end of the season.

"That's the effect when you've got a council that won't support you in anything you do. We've always said this site is too small to meet league standards, but we've followed what councillors told us to do, and now they're recommending it for refusal. We aren't asking for the Emirates here. We just want a roof over our heads."

A decision is due to be made on Monday.