Oxford United’s plans for a new stadium have moved a step closer after councillors agreed to enter negotiations over a lease on land at Stratfield Brake.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed to take the plan forward at its March 15 meeting.

Speakers argued passionately to progress the plan while others argued against. Reasons against included the loss of Green Belt.

Paul Peros, chair of the club’s supporters trust  OxVox, said: “We can move from an outdated, unsustainable stadium to a community hub that aims to provide at least net zero carbon by partnering with progressive local companies to pioneer the latest ground technology.

“We can move from a stadium with little public transport, that relies on 90 per cent car usage, to a stadium with superb public transport links with projected car usage of just 10 per cent. We can move from a three-side stadium, desperately in need of cripplingly expensive renovation and closed off to the community, to a stadium that will benefit the whole county.”

But Oxford city councillor Cllr Liz Wade said the issue had caused more concern for her residents, and those of Kidlington, than any other issue in the last three years.

She went on: “If this stadium, hotel, conference centre and other facilities are built, there will be a hole in the Green Belt that can never be repaired.”

She named a number of sites already lost and added: “Stratfield Brake will be the only remaining bit of Green Belt left. If this development goes ahead, even this will be gone.”

Soon after councillors approved the plan, the club issued the following statement: “Oxford United are absolutely delighted that Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet has agreed with their officers’ recommendation to proceed with negotiation regarding our proposal to lease land at Stratfield Brake.

“We wholeheartedly welcome their decision and thank them for their considered approach in assessing our proposal and understanding the vital need to safeguard our club’s future within Oxfordshire.

“As demonstrated in the recent consultation, there is widespread and significant support for our new stadium project from local residents, fans and stakeholders throughout the Oxfordshire community.

“Whilst the decision today remains the first stage of the process, it is a historic one, an important step forward to enable us to progress to the pre-planning stage.

“We look forward to negotiating with officers to agree the finalised terms of the deal and, as part of the pre-planning process, working with the local community to answer many of the valid issues that were raised as part of the consultation. We will provide a further update on our intended approach forward in due course.”

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