THE dilapidated former Rossendale United FC ground has been branded a ‘blight on the area’ by council leaders.

Council leader Alyson Barnes and regeneration chief, Coun Andy MacNae, said talks were being held with owner Rossendale United Holdings Limited with regards to future planning applications.

However, as Sport England will object to any plans to use the Rawtenstall site for anything other than leisure activities, they have said finding a solution to the eyesore is ‘tricky’.

Former club owner Andrew Connolly still owns the land, which was last used by the Stags in the 2010/11 season.

The club’s main stand was destroyed in a fire in January 2012, before the idea of using the land for 50 houses was mooted in February, and thrown out later in the year.

Coun MacNae said: “From our view, we want to get what is a pretty unpleasant site sorted.

“And the owner is keen to get some housing on the site, but he holds his own views on what the value of the site should be.

“We’ve been working with him to try and get it sorted. It’s a very important site and people have a lot of good memories on it.”

However Ron Ashworth, chairman of Rossendale United’s Supporters’ Association, said the site should be used for sport.

He said: “It’s been an established football stadium since the 1890s. There is nothing wrong with the field and the drainage and the flood lights are still there.

“It could be brought back into use quite quickly.

“It is in the owner’s interest to allow the ground to deteriorate if he wants to put housing on it, because people want to see the area cleared up.

“Sport England and Rossendale United Football Association will object to any planning application for houses that are submitted.”

Coun Barnes said: “I think people are fed up with having such a blight in the area, and it’s been like that for some time.

“However, if anything is put forward for the site, Sport England would have to be satisfied for it to be passed, so it is very tricky.”

Mr Connolly was unavailable to comment.