ST HELENS STAR readers will be asked to throw their weight behind a campaign to show how much people across the town want Saints to have a new stadium.

The Super League champions want supporters to pledge their backing to the planning application for the £25m plus venture by completing brochure forms.

The forms will be circulated at Knowsley Road on matchdays, at exhibitions of the stadium plans - set to be held at St Helens Town Hall from next week - and inserted in the council's St Helens First magazine.

Fans are being asked to return the forms to Saints, who intend to use them as evidence of the support there is across St Helens for the club's masterplan.

The big hurdle for the project is to get planning approval and if the proposals are called in' that will have to be granted from the government.

The project's key players believe examples of public support will strengthen Saints' case.

Saints chairman Eamonn McManus told the Star: "There will be a fairly extensive lobbying exercise to the town in order to get behind the planning application and the project as a whole.

"We require the support of everyone who wants to see this stadium. It is the core of support that needs to come from within the town as it those who will be the beneficiary of it. St Helens Star readers will play a critical role in that."

It is believed the plans could go before St Helens Council's planning committee by November this year.

If passed, the plans might then be called in for a public inquiry by the government, where the bid would come under rigorous scrutiny.

Crucially, permission for Tesco at Chalon Way to be converted to a shopping site and for homebuilder Taylor Woodrow to develop houses on Knowsley Road is needed if the stadium bid is to be successful.

Backers of the Saints bid point out the three elements are "inextricably linked" and if one fails, the entire scheme could collapse.

Developers, meanwhile, are hopeful that the government's approval of new stadium developments for Super League rivals Warrington and Salford following public inquiries in recent years could work in Saints' favour.

John Downes, managing director of developers Langtree Group plc, said: "There is a realistic prospect it will get called in for a public inquiry but I don't feel it is a forgone conclusion.

"There is certainly hope on our side that given Warrington's stadium plan was called in and subsequently approved and Salford called in and also subsequently approved there might be sufficient precedent now for them to say we know enough about these developments not to have a further public inquiry'."

Downes, who grew up in Haydock, echoed the Saints chairman's view that generating a wave of support from within the borough is vital.

He said such backing from within Warrington was a "significant supporting factor" when plans for the Halliwell Jones stadium were under the microscope.

If the proposals do get called in, it could be 18-months before Saints learn whether the development can kick off.

Providing it wins approval, Downes and McManus believe construction work will take around 18-months and have targeted 2010 as the year when Saints could move into the new home.

Both men, meanwhile, have applauded the support from St Helens Council in helping the stadium bid reach this stage.

McManus added: "There have been a lot of misconceptions and misinformation over the last two or three years.

"They have helped drive this through and a huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes. Ultimately I think the fans' patience will be rewarded."

Further coverage of the stadium

World class!

See a video interview with Eamonn McManus

Exlusive pictures of Saints stadium

Reaction from Saints chairman Eamonn McManus

Further reaction from McManus

All the reaction from key figures in the town

Read about the community focus of the stadium

Discuss the stadium in your forum