THE battle to keep London Wasps in High Wycombe has been given a major boost after a Government inspector said the Adams Park stadium should be taken out of the green belt.

This decision will make it easier to expand and eventually sell the stadium - owned by Wycombe Wanderers - so the two clubs can move to a bigger home.

Rugby giants Wasps have previously threatened to leave Wycombe unless more seats were found, and this new development could increase the capacity to around 12,500.

Wanderers managing director Steve Hayes, , said of the inspector's decision: "This makes life a lot easier."

The Hillbottom Road, Sands, stadium only holds 10,000 - but Wasps have been told by its league that it must have at least an extra 2,500 seats to play in the Guinness Premiership.

Wanderers could pocket £1m an acre when Adams Park is finally sold after it was taken out of the heavily protected green belt, a leading estate agent said.

Chartered surveyor Alan Chandler of Stupples, High Wycombe said: "The stadium site would be worth £1m an acre if it was sold as a brownfield industrial site - there is demand for industrial sites at Sands.

"If it was a green belt site, it would be worth the going rate for agricultural land which is £4,000 an acre."

The Planning Inspectorate this week approved plans by Wycombe District Council to take the stadium and its car park out of the green belt.

Wanderers boss Steve Hayes said the news boosted their plans to put in temporary seating to accommodate Wasps' fan base.

Mr Hayes, Wanderers' managing director and a major shareholder in Wasps, said: "We are looking at temporary seating for the Wasps for the future"

He said: "The council may be willing to help, Wanderers may be willing to help and you are half-way there.

"But you have to go through a great deal of red tape when it is on the green belt."

Extra seating would make a huge difference' until the stadium moved, he said.

Mr Hayes said: "We and the council don't want to see Wasps leaving the town so we have to work together to make this a win-win situation."

But conservation leaders yesterday hit out at the news which they say means a precious part of the green belt will be lost.

They said the site is now likely to be used for industrial units, similar to the surrounding industrial estate. Housing will not be allowed.

Tony Fooks, vice chairman of The High Wycombe Society, which works to protect the town's heritage, said: "We are concerned as to what could happen to the site should Adams Park be moved.

"We would like to have seen it return to the green belt. Green belt does allow for some stadium and recreation facilities but it doesn't mean it should be used for light industrial."

The news showed the danger of green belt being lost by stealth', said Mike Chadwick of the Chiltern Society.

He said: "It means when circumstances change down the road the green belt has been lost permanently."

Residents have long complained about the ground, the final building in Hillbottom Road before High Wycombe east spills into countryside, as it is at a dead end and can only be accessed from Lane End Road.

Nigel Phillips, chairman of Sands Residents' Association, said: "We are disappointed that the restraint on the green belt has gone but on the other hand it will make it easier for the site to be sold."

Residents were far more pleased that two fields in Lane End Road had been put into the green belt, he said.

Councillor Hugh McCarthy, responsible for planning at the council, said the change in status reflected the area's built up nature'.

He said: "This fits with our long term vision for that area, that Adams Park would ultimately become an extension of the employment area."

The council recommended the change in its Wycombe Development Framework Core Strategy, which the Planning Inspectorate has to give final approval for.

It will be adopted by the council in July.