County Council Cabinet to receive report on stadium proposal after more than 3,700 people respond to public engagement

A proposal from Oxford United FC to lease land from the county council to develop a new 18,000 capacity football stadium will be discussed by the authority’s Cabinet on 15 March after more than 3,700 people responded to a public engagement exercise.

Earlier this year the football club asked the county council to lease 18 hectares/44.48 acres of land at Stratfield Brake in Kidlington for 250 years. In addition to the stadium, the club’s proposal includes a hotel, retail units, conference and training facilities, and community spaces.

At its 18 January meeting, the council’s Cabinet concluded it did not have sufficient information to give its approval for officers to enter into discussions with the club and the council’s current tenants on the land.

The Cabinet decided that there should first be a period of engagement with the public and local organisations on the principle of entering discussions and on the council’s objectives for the use of the land. This ran from 25 January to 22 February.

Planning approval would still need to be sought

The Cabinet meeting on 15 March will receive a report from officers and decide on next steps. Should approval be given for further talks, and discussions on the lease of the land be subsequently concluded, the football club would then need to apply to Cherwell District Council for planning permission.

What did the public engagement results say?

In January, 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. Key detail includes:

  • A total of 80 per cent of respondents overall were in favour of the county council entering into discussions with the football club (18 per cent were not and two per cent were not sure).
  • Of the 2,910 people who said they were Oxford United supporters, 93 per cent were in favour of the council entering discussions with the club, six per cent were against and one per cent were not sure.
  • Of the 783 respondents who said they were not Oxford United supporters, 63 per cent said the council should not enter discussions, 33 per cent said the council should, and four per cent were not sure.
  • Of the 818 local residents who responded, 58 per cent were against discussions taking place, 38 per cent were in favour and four per cent were not sure.
  • The list of six objectives proposed by the council is generally thought to be good and exhaustive, although some respondents expressed concerns about whether they are realistic or achievable. 

More detail can be found in the cabinet report .

What are the officer recommendations?

Officers have recommended that cabinet authorises the council to enter detailed discussions based on the objectives of:

  • Maintaining a green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington and improving access to nature and green spaces
  • Enhancing facilities for local sports groups and ongoing financial support
  • Significantly improving the infrastructure connectivity in this location, improving public transport to reduce the need for car travel in so far as possible, and to improve sustainable transport through increased walking, cycling and rail use
  • Developing local employment opportunities in Oxfordshire
  • Increasing education and innovation through the provision of a sports centre of excellence and facilities linked to elite sport, community sport, health and wellbeing
  • Supporting the county council’s net zero carbon emissions pledge through highly sustainable development.

The outcome of discussions would be brought back to cabinet for consideration.

Cllr Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “This is a very significant proposal. There are implications for the people of Oxfordshire in general and residents of Kidlington, Gosford and Water Eaton in particular, as well as for the environment, the wider economy and the future of the county’s only professional football club.

“Very careful consideration will be given at our Cabinet to the results of the public engagement exercise. I am grateful to the very large number of people who took part.

“In January it was clear that many local residents and interested individuals and organisations wanted more time to consider the idea of a stadium at this location and to share their views with the county council. The Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance is committed to participatory, open and transparent decision-making.

 “Rather than rushing into a decision we asked officers to run a four-week public engagement exercise so that we could hear the views of those who care about this proposal. 

“We now have the results of that exercise and there is a great deal of rich information. This includes feedback on the key subject of the objectives the council should set out to achieve should a decision ultimately be approved to enter discussions as well as the concerns of those who think discussions should not take place. I look forward to discussing this with fellow Cabinet members at our meeting on Tuesday 15 March.”

How is the land currently used?

Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) purchased part of the land at Stratfield Brake in 1937 to provide a strategic gap between north Oxford and Kidlington – the site is in the green belt. It is currently leased by OCC to Cherwell District Council.

Part of the site is already a sports ground. OUFC has proposed that the football club will take responsibility for the cost of replacing or mitigating the loss of any community sports facilities at Stratfield Brake. 

The county council is not prepared to relinquish its current lease to the Woodland Trust, which has land at Stratfield Brake. It is therefore not part of any proposal being considered.