Background: Stratfield Brake
Oxford United Football Club’s proposal to relocate their stadium to Stratfield Brake. came to the Parish Council out of the blue just before Christmas 2021: we had previously only had discussions with the Club about the relocation of their training fields. It put the Council in an extremely difficult position. Since we hold a 100-year lease on the site, we were able to decide whether or not the proposal could go ahead to the next stage. We also knew that the Village was deeply divided on the issue, though we did not yet know in what proportion.
The decision the Parish Council took was to remain neutral on the issue for the time being. This was because the Club’s plans were at that stage very general and subject to change, and we could not decide on them until we knew exactly what they were. This applied whether we eventually said yes or no. Until we had detailed, specific and concrete information about the plans it would clearly have been foolish to say yes, and it would equally have been unfair, given the many Kidlington residents who support the plans, to say no.
For these reasons we agreed to enter into discussions with the Club and the County Council without any commitment, challenging the Club to develop plans that answered the key questions we had and were sufficiently clear and specific to enable us to take a decision. Before finally deciding we also resolved to consult residents in as fair, sound and systematic a way as possible.
The recent report by the Club went some way towards answering our key questions, but much remained unanswered. This has now all been superseded by the County Council's decision on the Triangle proposal.
The Triangle: the County Council's latest decision
At its meeting on 24 January the County Council Cabinet agreed to enter into non-binding negotiations with Oxford United on plans to build a new stadium on the land known as the Triangle, South of the Sainsburys roundabout and across Frieze way from Stratfield Brake (the purple triangle marked T on this map). Negotiations will be for the development of a stadium without any significant additional development except within the stadium footprint.
The decision includes a number of significant conditions concerning the objectives that have to be met by the Club before a final agreement is made. These are:
- Maintain a green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington
- Improve access to nature and green spaces
- Enhance facilities for local sports groups and on-going financial support
- Significantly improve 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
- Develop local employment opportunities in Oxfordshire
- Increase education and innovation through the provision of a sports centre of excellence and facilities linked to elite sport, community sport, health and wellbeing
- Support the county council’s net zero carbon emissions pledge through highly sustainable development
The County Council no longer considers the previous Stratfield Brake proposal to be a suitable or deliverable proposition and therefore does not plan to progress with it. For more details, see the County Council press release and the related officer report
The Triangle: Kidlington Parish Council’s position
The Parish Council's status in this new development is quite different from the case of Stratfield Brake. The Triangle site is in Kidlington, but we have no rights over it. We would have had to agree to relinquish our lease at Stratfield Brake to enable the stadium to go forward there; in the case of the Triangle we are only consultees.
Nevertheless, as with Stratfield Brake, the Parish Council will for the time being take a neutral position on the Triangle project. We recognize that there are strong arguments for and against it, and that views in the Village are deeply divided. As discussions develop and full details emerge we will be able to reconsider our position. In the meantime we will do the following:
- Consult with stakeholders and residents on their needs and concerns relating to the project. In particular we will:
- meet with Kidlington Sports Clubs to gain a full picture of their aspirations;
- contact local schools on their ambitions;
- hold a question-and-answer session at the Annual Parish Meeting on 30 March at 7:30 pm (details will be published on our website);
- distribute our Annual Newsletter before this with details on the project and a request for comments and suggestions.
- Engage with the Club and the County Council in order to ensure, as far as we can, that Kidlington’s needs and concerns are met as fully as possible. In particular we will press for more details on:
- transport, traffic congestion and parking;
- the number and frequency of major events;
- benefits to the local community (sporting and otherwise);
- the long-term dependability of commitments entered into by the club.
- Pay particular attention to the issue of the green barrier between Oxford and Kidlington, and the cost of a further incursion into the Green Belt. As the map shows, after the planned new housing developments around the Triangle (Pr 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, all in red on the map), building on the Triangle could effectively remove the green barrier.
After the local elections in May, the membership of the Council may change. We cannot commit them to a course of action, but we expect them to
- ensure that residents are appropriately consulted before the County Council makes a firm decision on the project;
- present a strong case if they do not believe that the stated objectives have been met as regards Kidlington’s concerns;
- do their best to ensure that if the project goes ahead Kidlington benefits from improved facilities for the use of the whole community.