An emotional plea to protect the “safe haven” of grassroots sports clubs has been made – as Trafford’s council leader vows plans for a controversial new stadium will not go ahead without community support.

Sale Sharks announced plans last month to leave their current Salford home at the AJ Bell stadium to move to a new 'sports village' at Crossford Bridge playing fields in Sale.

But a petition has already been launched by neighbours, which stands at more than 3,000 signatures.

Former Sale Harrier Chloe Grant, an under-17s county running champion, wrote to council leader Cllr Andrew Western and said: “I invite you to think of a place not too far from where you grew up where you first felt like you belonged as a child.

“For me, as a child growing up not too far from the Wythenshawe/Sale area like yourself, my safe haven was Crossford Bridge."

She told the council leader that young people might not have the funds to follow top-flight rugby union - but might have a "couple of quid" subs for athletics.

Chloe said she had made lifelong friends at the club - and questioned whether Crossford Bridged needed an 'eyesore' stadium.

Cllr Western replied: "As leader of the council I have a responsibility to consider anything that could bring investment in to the borough – particularly if it could be ring-fenced for improving grassroots facilities."

But he pledged at an executive meeting that the project would not move forward without community support.