RESIDENTS living close to the Barnet Copthall stadium agreed last night to form a group to help shape the future of the site.

Premiership rugby club Saracens want to create a 10,000 seater arena on what chief executive Edward Griffiths described as a “run down” venue in Mill Hill.

The plans would see the stadium fitted with retractable seating, allowing the Barnet Shaftesbury Harriers athletics club to use the running track in the summer months.

However, neighbours fear the plans will create traffic chaos and cause problems with light and noise pollution, and loss of facilities for local people.

Around 80 people attended last night's meeting at the stadium arranged by residents to express their views on the plans, which have not yet been put to Barnet Council for consideration.

One Page Street resident relayed her experiences of living near Leicester Tiger's ground of Welford Road, where she said on some match days she “could not get out of my driveway” because of traffic.

However, a Saracens fans at the meeting pointed out the ground has a capacity of 24,000, more than double what is proposed by Saracens.

Another lady said the plans could be a “trojan horse” and lead to more development in the ground in later years.

Concerns were also raised about the impact on local activities on the 16 match days the ground could be in use each season, with parking for youth activities a major concern.

Saracens had planned to use local schools, but one resident warned nearby Copthall School is already heavily used throughout the weekend.

Hilary Cass, who fought against Barnet FC's plans for the ground a decade ago and chaired the meeting, told the group: “We don't want to be seen as NIMBYs opposing development which would have significant benefit to the youngsters of the area.

“But having listened to what everyone has said there is a significant risk of impeding quite a lot of activity already going on in the area.”

Ex-Hendon MP Andrew Dismore warned residents they were living in “cloud cuckoo land” if they thought a controlled parking zone would be needed and asked “who's going to pay for it?”.

A poll of the group revealed around half had not been notified of a consultation meeting on January 6 over the plans.

One resident, who is a Saracens season ticket holder, said the group was in a “favourable position to negotiate” with the club for the terms they wanted.

Mr Griffiths, who was asked to wait downstairs while the group discussed the plans, was invited to answer questions on it.

He told the meeting the club wants to run as a “partnership” with the local community and planned to allow local schools used the revamped stadium “for free”.

In terms of community benefits he pledged to have Saracens Foundation coaches go into local schools and said it would be a “force for good” and “bring a new vitality to the community”.

He added: “It's a disaster for us if all of the prophecies of doom come true. From day one we have invested thousands in the traffic management plan and will continue to invest in the future.”

Mr Griffiths also said the club would withdraw its interest if it was clear the majority of local residents were against the plans.

At the end of the meeting the majority of residents voted to form a group to contest the application in its current form and find a sustainable way for the stadium to be regenerated.