Oxford United’s efforts to develop a new stadium have been hit by a legal challenge from environmental campaigners, centred on the English League One football club’s current lease deal to play at Kassam Stadium.
United is looking to move into a new home in time for the start of the 2026-27 season. The club currently plays at the Kassam Stadium, but does not own the venue and its lease deal to play at the 12,500-seat facility expires in 2026.
The new stadium proposal is for the facility to be located on Oxfordshire County Council-owned greenbelt land near Kidlington, known as ‘the Triangle’. However, the BBC reports that the Friends of Stratfield Brake group said the club lost an option to extend the lease at Kassam Stadium, while claiming that the Council failed to give details in its latest public consultation on the project.
The group has issued a pre-action letter to a judicial review, claiming the consultation, which ran from June 9 to July 23, was unlawful. Friends of Stratfield Brake believe that there was a lack of information on the lease and future plans for the Kassam Stadium site, adding that the survey was not made available to people outside Oxfordshire.
The Council and United are in negotiations on the terms on which the Council-owned land could be used for the development of a new stadium for the club. A site at Stratfield Brake in Kidlington had initially been proposed by the club, but it was recognised there were challenges associated with it.
The Council has not yet made a decision about whether United can lease or buy the land at the Triangle. Any final decision regarding the leasing or sale will be taken in public at a future cabinet meeting, currently pencilled in for September 19.
Campaigners against the project claim the stadium would be built on land that represents a strategic green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington. Suzanne McIvor, from Friends of Stratfield Brake, said: “People need to be able to understand precisely why OUFC can’t stay at Kassam Stadium which was only built around 20 years ago.
“Under its previous licence agreement OUFC had an option to renew until 2046. Oxfordshire County Council must explain precisely why OUFC has lost this option or renegotiated a licence which leaves them homeless.”
United announced in June that AFL Architects, Ridge and Partners, Mott MacDonald and Fabrik will make up the team seeking to deliver the new stadium. United’s efforts to develop a new stadium moved a step forward in May with a second stage of public engagement outlined, while the club revealed more details about its vision for the project.
In March, Oxfordshire County Council agreed a Memorandum of Understanding on the project. The County Council’s Cabinet approved an agreement with United to govern open and transparent relations between the two parties while they work to explore the impact of a new stadium.
The initial public consultation has seen some opposition to the venture with United stating that it welcomed concerns raised after local residents in Kidlington rejected the project during a vote held on May 10.
United is projecting that the cost of a developing a 16,000 to 18,000 capacity stadium, with additional commercial elements, will exceed £100m (€116.4m/$127.9m).
The project will require approval from Cherwell District Council, the local planning authority, to be able to proceed.