COUNCILLORS are being asked to sacrifice a protected beech tree for the benefit of over a thousand people, including youngsters, who use a top Yorkshire rugby union club ground.

North Ribblesdale RUFC - who play in Yorkshire Division One - want the tree chopping down as part of a project to improve the drainage of the second team pitch which is often unplayable in wet winter periods.

Members fear that if the planning application to Craven District Council fails, they face losing an £80,000 grant from Sport England to help with the project.

It has the support of staff at Settle Primary school, who use it for coaching, training and sports events and Settle College whose students and women's rugby team use the facilities.

The project also has the backing of Craven council's sports development officer, Bruce Dinsmore, who believes the application to be the first in England to consider the loss of a TPO tree verses the benefit of improving playing field drainage.

In his report he says: "The proposed scheme will provide a significant long term sustainable benefit to the club and this outweighs the loss of the beech tree which will be replaced.

"The council should consider the potential benefit to well over a thousand users a year of this pitch against the pragmatic solution offered in this application."

"I give my 100 percent backing for this application and I trust the council planning team will ensure the proposed pitch drainage and levelling works can take place with appropriate and measured mitigation conditions."

Club member Andrew Mills said: "The tree is not in our grounds but its roots encroach on the pitch which gets very wet and means we can't train or play on it and we have a growing junior section. It needs levelling and new drainage."

In season 2012-13 the pitch was out of use for fixtures and training on 15 occasions and 20 times in season 2013-2014.