Council cabinet set to decide on leasing land to Oxford United for new stadium

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet is set to make a decision on 24 January 2023 about whether to enter formal negotiations regarding leasing council-owned land to Oxford United Football Club (OUFC) for the development of a new football stadium.

Discussions have been taking place between the council and the club since late 2021 about leasing council-owned land for the development of 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.

A site at Stratfield Brake in Kidlington had initially been proposed by the club, 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.

The decision about whether or not to enter into formal negotiations with OUFC about the lease of land will be taken in public at a cabinet meeting on 24 January. It is important to recognise that a decision by cabinet would not give a green light to go ahead with the development of the stadium. This would be subject to the full democratic planning process, led by the local planning authority Cherwell District Council.

Cllr 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 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. Further details can be found here.