THE Saracens chief executive says opposition to his club's plans to regenerate Barnet Copthall stadium is “completely different” from opposition of the Barnet FC plans a decade ago.

On Wednesday dozens of people living near the ground in Mill Hill decided to form a pressure group to help shape any future development on the site, which is currently an athletics stadium.

Saracens plan to develop it to a 10,000 seater arena with retractable stands to allow athletics to continue and put in an artificial pitch for their team.

Plans by Barnet FC more than 10 years ago were thrown out after two planning appeals to the deputy prime minister, with residents concerned about parking, noise and light pollution.

But Edward Griffiths, the chief exec of the Premiership rugby side, said: “The scale of opposition is completely different to the Barnet situation.

“There are still people with concerns but it is on a much smaller scale and the development is also much smaller in comparison. There are no real parallels between the two situations.”

The side hope to be in the ground for the start of the new season in September after terminating their ground share with Watford FC, but could struggle if locals put up opposition.

He said: “We are still aiming to be ready for the start of next season but we are not moving to Copthall for one season. We are moving there hopefully for the next 20 to 30 years. We won’t be dictated to by deadlines and we respect the process.

“We want to put forward a complete plan and we are not ruled by deadlines. We will submit it when we are confident it is ready but I would expect the lodging to be imminent.

“Our strategy has been to engage with local residents as much as possible. The consultation process has been going for about three months and there is a strong consensus of support to refurbish Copthall.

“But that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t concerns. We are grateful for the widespread support and we are motivated to address any concerns people have.”

Mr Griffiths had a chance to address Tuesday nights residents' meeting and take questions about the plans.

He added: “There are very specific concerns about parking and traffic and I sense general concern about the development which is to be completely expected.

“But this is not Wembley on their doorstep. This is a modest stadium that will become a vibrant community hub.

“The key message is with, the artificial playing surface, it will become a unique sports venue in the country. It will be used day in day out by young people in Barnet. I am very confident it will become the absolute jewel in the crown of Barnet.

“We are happy to engage with people but we are very encouraged by the clear consensus and support throughout the borough.

“I am very happy to engage with any group at any time because every single person is an ally. We don’t have enemies and we are happy to address any concerns.”