A new stadium for Oxford United inched closer when county councillors agreed to open talks with the club about a possible move to Kidlington.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed at its January 24 meeting to open negotiations regarding heads of terms for the 4.9-hectares of Green Belt land it owns known as The Triangle, south of the Kidlington roundabout.

Public speakers, most in favour of the move, begged the council to support the officers’ recommendation to go ahead with talks.

However, the meeting heard The Triangle had been acquired by the county council in the 1930s to maintain a green gap between Oxford and Kidlington and opponents of the move argued that a stadium would not fulfil that purpose.

The site is an alternative to the neighbouring Stratfield Brake site which would have potentially housed a stadium along with a hotel, conference centre and further sports pitches.

The club has to leave the Kassam Stadium by 2026 but there was frustration on both sides out the speed of progress.

Niall McWilliams, chief strategic officer of the club, said: “Our aims throughout this process have remained the same; to secure world class facilities for our club and county in addition to maximising our contribution to the Oxford community.

“Yet we are no closer to an answer, no closer to saving our club. We have spent the last year working relentlessly in addressing the points raised about Stratfield Brake and, despite our best efforts, Stratfield Brake was clearly a project with difficulties.

“Therefore we have moved our stadium-only proposal to the smaller Triangle. We had no choice, we had to change our plans. We must give ourselves a chance of being here after 2026.”

He detailed the consultations which have taken place and the 80 per cent level of support that resulted.

But he warned: “We do not have time for years, months or even weeks of further delays. We are genuinely running out of time to save this football club.”

He argued that both supporters and opponents were tired of being trapped in what he called a ‘never ending debate’.

But Cllr Calum Miller, cabinet member for finance, said delays were not of the council’s making.

He said: “The work now lies with the club and we’ve encouraged the club owners, executives and consultants to accelerate their work to prepare the detailed proposals we need in order to make a judgement about whether or not they meet the county council’s objectives.

“As many speakers have said, delay is in no-one’s interest so it’s now up to OUFC to work fast and come back with more detailed plans to show the county council’s objectives are met.”

He said work would begin the next day with the club on establishing a timetable for that process which he said would need to be open and transparent.

See also Oxford United kick off stadium debate

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