English League One football club Oxford United has called on Oxfordshire County Council to deliver progress and clarity on its proposed new stadium project after it emerged that officers have been recommended to authorise the start of negotiations on outline legal and commercial terms.
Recommendations will be made to the Council’s cabinet regarding United’s proposal to lease land for the development of a stadium at a meeting scheduled for January 24. The land in question is known as ‘the triangle’, with United having provided information at this point consistent with the first stage of the Royal Institute of British Architect’s (RIBA) pathway for developing proposals.
The Council has stressed there is still considerable detail to be developed, adding it remains mindful that – as with a previously proposed site at Stratfield Brake – the land is in the green belt.
Cllr Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’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.”
Should cabinet agree next week to progress negotiations, the club would be required to provide further information and undertakings before any final agreement was entered into. Officers have recommended that cabinet requires that any legal agreement with United should be consistent with the county council’s strategic priorities.
United last month confirmed that it was in preliminary discussions regarding a potential alternative site for its proposed new stadium, a switch from the previously targeted 18 hectares of land at Stratfield Brake in Kidlington as the destination for an 18,000-seat stadium.
In March, United had been cleared to move to the pre-planning stage of efforts to develop a new stadium at this site. It came after the club had earlier asked the council to lease 18 hectares of land at Stratfield Brake in Kidlington for 250 years.
Oxford currently plays at the Kassam Stadium, but the club does not own the venue and its lease deal to play at the 12,500-seat facility expires in 2026. In response to the latest news from the Council, United said it hopes that the principles and work undertaken so far, in relation to Stratfield Brake, can be transferred over to the Triangle site.
Niall McWilliams, chief strategy officer at Oxford United, added: “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.”