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. The proposal was put forward by the County Council, as owners of the land. It put the Parish Council in a critical position. Since we hold a 100-year lease on the site, we were in a position 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.
However the County Council no longer considers the Stratfield Brake proposal to be a suitable or deliverable proposition and does not plan to progress with it.
The Triangle: developments at the County Council
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
Oxford United's detailed plans for the stadium development have now been published: see https://oufcstadium.co.uk/relevant-documents/. As the best introduction to them, residents are encouraged to start with the Overview and Summary. See also https://oufcstadium.co.uk/background/ for more information on why the Club believes it has to move.
At its meeting on 19 September the County Council Cabinet agreed in principle to proceed with leasing the Triangle site to the Club, subject to conditions:
- The club must be given planning permission by Cherwell District Council.
- The club must produce a net-zero plan that is fully costed and comes with clear timescales and outcomes from design, construction and full operation of the stadium.
- The club must provide detail of how it will meet the commitments made in its submissions to the county council so far--that is, exactly how it will fully satisfy the seven priorities listed above.
- Restrictive covenants will be put in place that will set aside the use of the land for football/community sports and leisure/sports stadia for the term of the lease, with limited commercial activities permitted only within the stadium footprint.
See the County Council's letter to the Club and related Appendix on these conditions. The Cabinet has delegated authority to the Director of Finance, in consultation with the Chief Executive and the Cabinet Member for Finance and Property (Calum Miller), to negotiate and agree the final heads of terms.
See also the County Council's pages on the proposal.
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.
The Parish Council scrutinized the detailed plans that have now been published, and and asked the Club and the County Council for further information on a number of key issues. We were told that further information would not be forthcoming at this stage.
Following its meeting on 7 September, the Parish Council wrote to the County Council objecting to the stadium proposals because of concerns on a number of major issues:
- Traffic congestion
- Frequency and timing of matches and other major events
- Pledged benefits to residents
- Compensation for the loss of the Kidlington Green Belt gap
See the full text of our letter to the County Council. See also the KPC Chair's report for August for further discussion.
Despite the Parish Council's and other objections, the County Council has now agreed in principle to proceed with leasing the Triangle to the Club, subject to certain conditions (see the previous section). The Parish Council will therefore do everthing it can, within its limited powers, to ensure that its concerns, and those of residents, are satisfied in the final leasehold agreement.
The Parish Council is very concerned by the Club's current plan to close the main Oxford Road to traffic for one hour before and two hours after matches. This plan is inconsistent with the County Council's requirement for "a new pedestrian route across the Oxford Road, such as a footbridge, that improves pedestrian and cyclist access to the site from Oxford Parkway railway station and the Park & Ride without disrupting vehicle movements on the Oxford Road". However, we have been assured the County Council that it will not support this plan.
We have also been assured by the County Council that stakeholders will see (subject to requirements of commercial confidentiality) and have the opportunity to comment on the Club's detailed proposals for satisfying the seven priorities that the County Council has set, before a final decision is made on the stadium lease. We shall therefore scrutinize the proposals carefully, especially with regard to the issues that most concern us: traffic, parking and benefits to the community. We are currently in discussion with the Club on this last issue.
Parish Poll and further consultation
A Parish Poll was held on 10 May 2023 on the question Should Kidlington Parish Council support the building of a stadium for Oxford United Football Club in Kidlington? The Poll was called by a group of residents, not by the Parish Council. The status of the Poll is advisory
Out of a total 10,022 Kidlington electors, 928 voted YES and 2073 voted NO. The turnout was 29.99%. Although it did not call the poll, the Parish Council views the result as significant, and thanks the residents who turned out to vote.
The poll result is more or less in line with that of
the County Council’s online survey more than a year ago, in which out of 822
local respondents 38% were in favour of negotiating with the Oxford United and
More details on the Parish Poll are available here.
The recent County Council survey on the stadium has its limitations. It asks for email addresses and postcodes only, not names and addresses,. The email addresses are used to “validate responses”, which however cannot be checked against the electoral roll. It asks respondents to list up to three strategic priorities, out of OCC’s seven, that they consider most important, and then to say how far they feel the detailed plans have met the objectives in question. Respondents are asked to explain their responses and are given the opportunity for free comments. There is no overall yes/no question. Email and postal submissions were also be accepted.
Survey responses were broken down to Parish. There was an associated leaflet drop to local households, as well as a series of public exhibitions put on locally by both the County Council and the Club.
The County Council consultation has now concluded and the results have been published. See the KPC Chair's report for August for further details and discussion.
The Parish Council considered whether to hold a further survey of its own, or another Parish Poll. On balance, we decided not to because of the risk of consultation fatigue.