A proposal to progress work on a new stadium for Oxford United in Kidlington has been recommended for approval.
Oxfordshire County Council’s (OCC) cabinet will discuss whether to approve a plan to negotiate with the club about leasing council land, known as The Triangle, off Frieze Way, south of Kidlington roundabout, on Tuesday, January 24.
The site is an alternative to the neighbouring, 18-hectare Stratfield Brake site which was first considered. It was to include an 18,000-seat stadium, a hotel, retail and conference facilities and training/community grounds.
The 4.9-hectare Triangle site would house a stadium only. However, both sites are in the Green Belt.
Cllr Calum Miller, OCC’s cabinet member for finance, said: “Officers have made their recommendations and it is now for us as cabinet members to decide whether or not we accept them.
“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. We also recognise the opinions and needs of local people who would be affected by the building of a new stadium.”
Public engagement last year found a majority of respondents supported the move. However, a majority or residents near the site expressed concerns.
Cllr Miller added: “Officers have already taken the results of the engagement exercise conducted in early 2022 into account. These highlighted concerns and challenges associated with the Stratfield Brake site and the scale of OUFC’s proposals to lease 18 hectares of land for the development of a football stadium alongside hotel, retail and conference facilities, and training/community grounds.
“As a result, officers have now recommended – for the provision of a stadium only – a smaller site of 4.9 hectares that is separated from Kidlington and Gosford by two major roads.
“Use of this site would not impact community sports facilities or access to Stratfield Brake and the land owned by the Woodland Trust as a community amenity. We are, however, very mindful that this site is also in the Green Belt.
“As the club’s proposals become clearer, we would expect there to be regular opportunities for the club to engage with the public about their plans, which the county council would take into consideration. If the negotiations led to a satisfactory conclusion there would then be a full and transparent planning process led by Cherwell District Council.
“This is not therefore a case of the county council giving the club a green light. Officers are proposing to start detailed negotiations on the terms on which Oxfordshire County Council land could be offered for the purposes of a new home stadium for OUFC.
“These terms would be subject to clearly set out criteria. This is not a final proposal for consideration but is a recommendation to intensify discussions with the club to get to the point where a firm proposal can be considered.”
In a statement Niall McWilliams, chief strategy officer for Oxford United, said: “We are extremely grateful to the council for their consistent willingness to help identify a solution.
“They have always been fair, transparent and honest in their dealings with us. I must now be equally so with them – the club is running out of time. We need your backing for The Triangle site, or alternatively reverting to Stratfield Brake now.
“We simply cannot endure further months or years of delay. I welcome Tuesday’s meeting and look forward to putting the club’s case forward, but should the decision be to proceed with negotiations, I also urge the council to commit to concluding the negotiations as soon as possible.
“We have delivered on every commitment we have made thus far, and we will continue to do so. That includes addressing the new conditions for negotiations as well as extensive further engagement with the local community and fans. But we cannot move to that stage, without the all-important go-ahead to move to the pre-submission planning phase.
“More than anything else, after a year of uncertainty, to-ing and fro-ing, stop-start decisions, what we need above anything else is clarity.”
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