A FOOTBALL club has been given permission to install an artificial pitch amid concerns that cancelled matches were turning youngsters away from the game.

Ladybridge Football Club, whose players play on pitches off Tempest Road, Lostock, applied for permission to replace grass with a state-of-the-art 3G artificial pitch and erect a 2m security fence around it.

The scheme has now been approved — despite objections the work was not in keeping with the pitch’s green belt status.

Volunteer coach Andrew Holliday, said: “The rainfall over the last few years has been no blip and four of the wettest five years on record have been since the year 2000.

“The players lost an average of 14 weeks of football last year and 10 weeks on the run at one point which is disheartening for them.

“Members are considering quitting the sport and doing other things.”

He added: “We need the fence for security reasons, every day we find at least four lots of dog foul and it’s not nice.” Lynda Keat, who lives near the pitches, said the land should remain “green”.

She added: “The playing field is in the green belt and to allow the club to replace the pitch will be a great betrayal of the green belt process.

“Football has a place but it shouldn’t override planning restrictions.”

But council bosses felt the plans were compatible with green belt policy because the land was to be used for sport and recreation.

Cllr Andy Morgan, who sits on Bolton Council’s planning committee, said: “What the club is doing for youngsters’ health and fitness is commendable.”

Club chairman Steve Hill — who founded the club nearly 25 years ago — told The Bolton News: “This is mega for our club.”