Oxfordshire County Council has proposed a new site for Oxford United Football Club (OUFC) to develp its new stadium.
There have been ongoing discussions between the council and the club since late 2021 about leasing council-owned land for an 18,000-capacity football stadium. In March 2022, the cabinet asked officers to seek further information from the club on their proposals. This information was provided in November 2022.
The initial proposal was for a site at Stratfield Brake in Kidlington, but it was recognised there were considerable challenges associated with it. Officers have now identified another potential location between Oxford and Kidlington and are discussing its suitability with the club.
The alternative site is located south of Kidlington roundabout, west of Banbury Road and east of Frieze Way.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet is set to decide on 24 January 2023 whether to enter formal negotiations regarding leasing council-owned land to Oxford United Football Club (OUFC) for its new football stadium.
The decision about whether or not to enter into formal negotiations with OUFC regarding the lease of land will be taken in public at a cabinet meeting on 24 January.
However, it is vital to recognise that a decision by the cabinet is not a green light to go ahead with the stadium’s development. This would be subject to the democratic planning process led by the local planning authority Cherwell District Council.
Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Earlier this year, we ran a public engagement exercise to better understand the opportunities and concerns relating to the stadium proposal.
“More than 3,700 people responded from across the county and beyond. Overall, a strong majority expressed support for us to begin discussions with the club. However, a majority of local residents expressed reservations.
“We listened to the many points raised during our engagement exercise and began exploratory discussions with the club with clear principles in mind. These include maintaining a green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington, improving public access to high-quality green spaces, enhancing facilities for local sports groups, developing local employment opportunities and increasing education opportunities for our young people.
“Any development must have a positive impact on the lives of people in Oxfordshire both in this specific locality and beyond – it needs to bring improvements that will benefit residents in years to come.
“We listened carefully to feedback from local residents and have taken account of the concerns they raised. The alternative site is separated from Kidlington and Gosford by two major roads, while the current leasing arrangement means its use would not impact community sports facilities or access to Stratfield Brake as a community amenity.
“The new site also has the advantage of being close to Oxford Parkway railway station and the Park and Ride, which would enable greater walking, cycling, bus and rail use among fans. We are, however, very mindful that – like Stratfield Brake − the site is in the green belt.
“As the county‘s only professional football league club, we know that Oxford United is close to the hearts of thousands of people across this county. The club has a long and distinguished history and is an integral part of the county’s heritage and presence.
“We fully recognise the challenges facing OUFC, and we are doing everything we can to help them achieve a long-term home in the county and a sustainable future.
“Our officers are reviewing all the information and the responses received and will be making a clear recommendation to the cabinet about whether or not to enter into formal negotiations with the club about the potential use of land for the development of a stadium.
“The cabinet will now debate this on 24 January and decide whether they agree with the recommendation from officers. If the cabinet decides to enter formal negotiations with OUFC, any final proposal by the club would then need to be put through the planning process at Cherwell District Council, which provides further opportunities for the public to provide their views before elected members take a decision.”
In January 2022, officers were asked to conduct a public engagement exercise to understand better the opportunities and concerns relating to the stadium proposal. A total of 3,740 responses were received.
Oxford United issued a statement after the proposals put forward by the council, confirming it was in “preliminary discussions” regarding the alternative site for the stadium.
The club said: “Oxford United continues to consider any viable site for their proposed new stadium and can confirm that the club are in preliminary discussions regarding a potential alternative site for their proposed new stadium, located at the land to the east of Frieze Way / South of Kidlington Roundabout.
“Our search for a new home has been well publicised, and given the pressing need for securing a sustainable future home, it is important and right that the club do not rule out any alternative sites at this stage.
“The discussions are at a very early stage, so we cannot confirm any details, but any site will remain subject to contractual negotiations, obtaining planning permissions and the relevant statutory consents. We also remain committed to extensive consultation with the local community in the new year.
“The club will continue to explore all options available to provide a long-term and sustainable future home that benefits both the club and our local community. Given the dwindling timeframe available to us and the interest from fans, local residents and the wider Oxfordshire community, it is imperative that a decision about a preferred site is resolved as soon as possible.”