VICARAGE Road Stadium is set to get a massive facelift after plans to demolish the east stand and build a 4,289-seater replacement were rubber stamped by Watford Council.

In return, the club is expected to shell out £100,000 towards improving the West Watford area as well as creating an education centre at the club.

Councillors agreed to grant planning permission for the multi-million pound project on Tuesday night.

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Watford FC now has five years in which to start work on knocking down the existing stand, which was built in 1922 and extended in 1969.

One of the conditions attached to the application is a legally binding agreement known as the section 106 agreement which has to be finalised within the next six months. This will include a payment of £100,000 towards safety and environment intiatives.

A big PR campaign and extensive public consultation, including presentations, meetings with fans and an exhibition appears to have paid off, as only one letter of objection to the scheme was received by the town's planners.

The new stand will incorporate a club shop, museum, a club members' bar and two corporate hospitality lounges as well as a stadium control room, which will double up as a reserve town centre CCTV room.

Although it will not be much bigger than its predecessor, it will greatly improve disabled access and include 46 wheelchair spaces. A total of 1,926 seats will be reserved for families.

The development will also create an impressive front entrance for the club. A report presented to the council's planning and licensing committee said: "The new stand, together with the repaving of Occupation Road, will give a 'sense of arrival' at the stadium, which is currently lacking."

The plans were quickly agreed by committee members although Vicarage ward councillor Rashid Choudrey said it was vital that all section 106 cash from the club be ploughed back into the local community.

He said: "The game is enjoyed by the whole of Watford and outside but it does affect the community in Vicarage ward. We need to tie down this money to be used in that area."

He also asked that the council be consulted on the materials to be used for the outside of the new building.

When completed the stand will represent the final major improvement to the stadium following the construction of the new Vicarage Road and Rookery stands in 1993 and 1995 respectively.