COUNCILLORS have called for increased regulation of greyhound racing at the redeveloped Abbey Stadium.

Gaming International, the owners of the speedway and dog racing facility in North Swindon, this week received the go-ahead for a £5m revamp of the site from Swindon Borough Council's planning committee.

Steve Heyes, one of the Conservative councillors for St Andrews, said: “I’m delighted that the stadium owners have got planning permission for the new stadium.

“It will be new and much more modern and should become a real asset for the area. I hope it’s something we can be proud of here and across Swindon.”

That was echoed by his Tory colleague from nearby Priory Vale, Vinay Manro.

He said: “It’s great this has happened after so long, it’s taken a while.

"There is a lot of investment going into speedway in the last few years, and we do well in it at Swindon.

"I hope it really revitalises interest in the sport and a new stadium can be used for many other things – it will be very good for the area.”

But both councillors are intending to ask the government to do more about concerns about the welfare of greyhounds used for racing.

Campaigners from pressure group Stop Swindon Greyhound Racing have picketed the stadium on race evenings and have been present at every planning committee meeting where the stadium plans were considered, trying to persuade members to not allow dog racing at the venue.

Coun Heyes said: “Vinay Manro and I will be speaking to the cabinet member for public safety, Cathy Martyn, and raising a question at next week’s full council meeting.

"We’d like her to raise the matter with the secretary of state to look into the welfare of Racing Greyhounds Act 2020 and tighten the regulations.”

Coun Manro said: “At the moment greyhound racing is legal – if that were to change, I’d be delighted – but we can ask for the welfare to be tightened up. There was a story in the Adver last week about an owner keeping his dogs in very poor conditions.

“It does seem away from the stadiums, when it comes to kennelling and after dogs have finished racing, there’s very little regulation of the animals’ welfare at all, so we’d like that to be looked at by government.”

While the chairman of the borough council’s planning committee, Tim Swinyard, explained to members of the campaign group that members weren’t able to disallow a legal activity already taking place on site under planning law, he did indicate some understanding of their cause.

Group founder Stephanie Poyntz was disappointed by the committee decision, but not discouraged.

She said: “There is a lot of support for our campaign in Swindon now.

“We spoke to some of the committee members afterwards and are going to explore other avenues with the council.

“We will carry on speaking out for the greyhounds.”

The Greyhound Board of Great Britain said: “We are pleased that the redevelopment of Swindon Stadium has been given the go-ahead.

"Like all GBGB racecourses, Swindon Stadium upholds the highest standards of greyhound welfare and integrity; as well as adhering to our Rules of Racing the stadium plays an active role in delivering our Greyhound Commitment which sets out our expectations of how our sport should be run with greyhound welfare at its heart.

“As well as improvements for spectators at the track, this substantial investment will create brand-new facilities that will benefit all greyhounds racing at the stadium, including upgraded air-conditioned kennels and state-of-the-art veterinary rooms.”

An agreement on developer contributions must be found between the council and Gaming International before work can start, but the company hopes much of it will be done this year.