A four-week public engagement is to begin before Oxfordshire County Council will seek to open negotiations over relocating Oxford United to the proposed new site at Kidlington.

The council’s cabinet deferred making the decision on whether to open talks with the club at its January 18 meeting so that the engagement can take place. It will then be discussed at the March 15 meeting.

Cllr Calum Miller proposed the deferral. He said: “From the discussions (at the meeting) there are some overriding themes that come through.

“Scale of the development still needs to be nailed down and better understood, especially in the Green Belt, there are concerns from the local community around traffic, parking and pollution and the sports clubs (at Stratfield Brake) have articulated their expectation that they would be offered replacement sports facilities of at least the same, if not enhanced, quality.

“Some of these issues are not strictly for us as the county council. We are the landowner and as other councillors have articulated, some of these issues will be properly addressed through the planning process.

“Nevertheless it is a complex arrangement at the moment.  We lease the land to Cherwell District Council (CDC), they lease it in turn to the parish councils and they hire it to the sports clubs. All of those parties have an interest in the outcome.

“Those are vested and nested interests which won’t be resolved in one negotiation over a lease.”

Cllr Andrew Middleton, a member of OCC, CDC and two local parishes, said he had heard comments for and against the move from locals but said district and parish councils may be happy to be relieved of the financial and operational burdens of managing the current site.

But he added: “A major concern for me is that that proposal is in the Green Belt in an area that has already lost a significant amount of similar land to new development.

“Large chunks of Green Belt have been given over to provide housing for Oxford city and this has caused a great deal of anger and disappointment as well as distrust of the local planning authority. To expect more Green Belt land to be swallowed up for something like this may be a bridge too far.”

After the meeting, Oxford United issued a statement. It said: “Oxford United Football Club thank Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet for their consideration of our proposal regarding a potential new stadium at Stratfield Brake.

“We trust and we’re reassured that the county council understands the vital need to safeguard our club’s future within Oxfordshire.

“We also appreciate the concerns raised by councillors, and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring our proposals genuinely serve the wider community and is an asset that the whole county can be proud of.

“We were already committed to undertaking our own wide-reaching programme of community engagement and fully respect the council’s decision to bring this process forward.

“We look forward to supporting and working with the county council to undertake their four week engagement programme prior to a final decision being made.”

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