Cheers erupted after Barnet Council gave the green light for Saracens rugby club to relocate to Copthall Stadium last night.

Councillors unanimously voted in favour for the Premiership club to develop the Sixties athletics stadium into a 10,000 seated venue.

Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths said: “For 349 days of the year it will be a valuable community sports hub, which excites us so much.

“Saracens is not a commercial developer out to make a quick buck to then disappear over the horizon.

“We are asking for the opportunity to invest in this community. For the opportunity to inspire, motivate and excite for years to come.”

Community groups, councillors and Olympic hopeful Larry Achike spoke in favour of the £18.5 million plans which they argued would create more sporting opportunities in the borough.

The new ground will be used for up to 16 Saracens home matches a year and remain open for community use on non match days.

Mr Achike, who coaches for Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers at the run-down Copthall stadium, said: “The Saracens investment will modernise the facility and make it more appealing to all ages and groups in the community.”

But dozens of people turned out to oppose the plans arguing the development would detriment the green belt and increase traffic and pollution.

Paul Herman, chairman of Copthall Community Initiative (CCI), said: “The roads are already treacherous for kids and there have been numerous accidents there.”

CCI has been contesting the plans since they were first put before the council in 2010. Since then, the campaign has received the backing of more than 1,500 people opposing Saracens’ bid.

Barnet and Camden GLA member Brian Coleman and MP Matthew Offord also made a stand against the plans and suggested Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, would do the same.

Mr Offord said: “The Mayor of London is not in favour of this."

However, sitting on last night’s planning and environment committee Councillor John Marshall said: “This is Barnet’s time to be a sports legacy – if we turn it down, future generations will just think we have been daft.”

The application will now be referred to the Mayor of London and the Department for Communities and Local Government.