THE final stage of a football club’s 12-year battle to own and redevelop their home ground is about to kick off.

Rishton United is to start on drainage work at the town’s Norden Playing Fields.

This follows Hyndburn Borough Council granting the club a 25-year lease for the site so its 250 playing members, aged four to 44, can play football in the town rather than travel to Blackburn and elsewhere for ‘home' matches.

In all, United raised more than £300,000 for the project, £54,000 of which had to pay a VAT bill.

As well as granting the club the long lease needed to win grants from Sport England and the Lancashire Football Association, the council provided £97,000.

Other finance came from the Lancashire Environment Fund, Tesco and Newground Together, while United’s 21 teams raised more than £30,000 in two years.

Now work to improve and protect the playing fields is about to start in partnership with the Haslingden-based Proffitts Community Interest Company and Hyndburn Council.

The initial stage involves draining and levelling the grass area for more pitches, installing a fence to prevent horses and motorbikes damaging the playing surface, creating seating for visitors and spectators and installing new access paths.

The club is now raising more cash for changing facilities and a club house.

Club chairman Chic Kelly said: “Our teams have had to travel across the borough to play matches and attend training so this will be welcomed by everyone.

“While we’ve spent years on this project there’s still some fundraising to organise to ensure we complete phase two and provide changing facilities and a clubhouse.”

Cllr Miles Parkinson, leader of Hyndburn Council, said “The club are a step nearer to developing the sports ground.

“This is great news for the whole community as it will promote sport for everyone, from youngsters through to seniors.

“The club have done a lot of hard work to make their dream come alive, so it’s fantastic to see their plans coming to fruition.”

Dave Campbell, the club’s secretary, added: “The development will also see opportunities for local businesses to support the project through sponsorship, donations and services.

“They are encouraged to contact me on 07785 362909.”

The club has teams from under-sixes through to under-16s and adults