OUFC REPORT ON ITS STADIUM PROPOSALS RAISES MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT ANSWERS
- Residents are angered by Oxfordshire County Council’s refusal to hold a public consultation on the new Triangle option for a stadium for OUFC, intending instead to rely on the previous Stratfield Brake consultation. Local residents have described this as disingenuous and are demanding that the local community, in both Kidlington and North Oxford, be consulted in an appropriate way.
- After a nine-month wait OUFC has published a new report with ‘detailed’ proposals for its new stadium that totally fails to address the key issues and raise more questions than it answers.
- The proposals fail to identify a preferred option for siting a stadium and associated commercial development but DO show that the Triangle is not considered optimal because of limited space.
- Shockingly, OUFC’s proposals include the possibility of building 150 homes to replace four community rugby pitches at Stratfield Brake. This was NEVER part of the rationale for giving up yet more Green Belt.
- Neither OUFC nor the County Council have explained why Stratfield Brake was ruled out at the last minute. Perhaps they have been forced to recognise that growing local opposition makes it very unlikely the Parish Councils will agree to release their lease on Stratfield Brake?
In a letter to stakeholders in early December, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) announced “considerable challenges” associated with the site at Stratfield Brake. Council Officers suggested an alternative site on a nearby area of Green Belt referred to as the Triangle. OCC’s Cabinet will decide on 24th January whether to enter formal negotiations with OUFC with regards to a potential lease for this land.
OUFC’s new report acknowledges it is “focused on Stratfield Brake as the potential stadium site” but campaign group the Friends of Stratfield Brake (FoSB) say that not only does the report fail entirely to meet its own brief to provide detailed proposals for Stratfield Brake as a site for the new stadium, but it also fails to address the Triangle site in any detail.
Victoria Campbell of FoSB described the proposals as “a confusing patchwork of various reports which lack detail and fail to address the five key challenges which OCC has said are essential: (1) Identifying the land; (2) protecting the interests of local sports clubs; (3) ensuring that football-related public transport use increases from 20% to 90%; (4) parking issues; and (5) achieving a net gain in biodiversity”. Mrs Campbell added “it’s regrettable for OUFC supporters that the proposals have taken so long to arrive and yet still focus on Stratfield Brake, with the newly-offered Triangle Site added as what seems like an afterthought in response to OCC’s recent announcement”.
Elements of the report will cause real concern for residents. For example, the Sustainability Guide section on the proposed development refers to a choice between four rugby pitches or 150 homes.
Linda Ward of Kidlington Development Watch said: “The long awaited proposals from OUFC confirm that there is no way a commercial stadium in the Green Belt between Kidlington and Oxford could meet Cherwell’s current local planning policies. Why does a proposal for a football stadium include a potential housing development? This shocking admission confirms our suspicions that the whole proposal is about taking Green Belt for commercial development, just as happened at Kassam.”
Other concerns for local residents centre around parts of the report which mention requirements for road closures or restrictions on match days; access to the stadium via Croxford Gardens and the Woodland Trust Nature Reserve; local parking controls; no net gain in biodiversity; funding for infrastructure e.g. footbridges; and the absence of measures to discourage fans from travelling by car.
Suzanne McIvor, FoSB spokesperson, has asked the Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Calum Miller, for an appropriate public consultation on the Triangle, and in particular one which does not give unequal weight to OUFC supporters as happened in January 2022. However, Councillor Miller has indicated that the Council will use the results of the previous engagement exercise, which he said collected views on both the Triangle and Stratfield Brake, despite the fact that the Triangle was always anticipated to be retained as green space in the proposals.
Mrs McIvor said: “To suggest that it is appropriate to use the results of the previous engagement exercise in which the Triangle was being offered as part of a package with Stratfield Brake is completely unacceptable. After an open-ended wait for OUFC’s proposals, with no explanation as to the reasons why Stratfield Brake is being replaced with the Triangle, it is entirely unreasonable of the County Council to start lease negotiations with OUFC without a public consultation. We will be taking this up with our MP Layla Moran.”
The Friends of Stratfield Brake (FoSB) say that the local community is angered by the way OCC is handling this but also questions why public resources are being devoted to seeking a stadium site for a privately owned company, particularly when it still has not been explained exactly why it is not possible for the Club to remain at their existing stadium which Oxford City Council has protected as an Asset of Community Value.
Victoria Campbell of FoSB said: “We cannot see how the proposals presented by OUFC for Stratfield Brake and the Triangle site fulfil the Council’s five essential objectives nor meet the policy objectives of the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance. There is no credible basis for OCC to proceed in our view, and we also don’t believe that the Council’s continued use of public resources in assisting a private corporate entity to commercially develop publicly-owned Green Belt for a new stadium is acceptable, particularly given so many unanswered questions and the strength of local opposition.”
Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) has been in discussions with OUFC about their search for a new home ground since March 2021.
In March 2022 OCC’s Cabinet requested that OUFC provide further details regarding their stadium proposals and its potential impacts. The original proposal would allow OUFC to build a stadium plus associated commercial development on around 44 acres of OCC-owned land at Stratfield Brake plus the adjacent site referred to as the Triangle. Kidlington Parish Council and Gosford & Water Eaton Parish Councils jointly hold the lease on Stratfield Brake but have no controlling interest on the Triangle lease.
OCC wrote to stakeholders on 4 December 2022 to advise them that the further information which it had requested from OUFC in respect of Stratfield Brake had been made available in early November. However, the same letter stated that OCC recognises that there are “considerable challenges” associated with Stratfield Brake and that Officers had identified an alternative site.
The alternative is referred to as the Triangle and is located to the south of the Kidlington Roundabout, west of Banbury Road and east of Frieze Way. OCC say that they are “very mindful” that the site is in the Green Belt but at their meeting on 24 January 2023 the Cabinet is going to consider whether they will enter into formal negotiations with OUFC with regards to the potential lease of the Triangle. Note: This is different from the previous decision In March 2022 which was to enter discussions.
The detailed proposals prepared by consultants on behalf of OUFC have recently been published (c. 23/12/22).
The Executive Brief (page 4) states: “Brief Development: The design brief has been in development throughout the workstage, and has been refined and adapted through several design review workshops, carried out with internal client stakeholders. The outcome of this process is an indicative sitewide masterplan that considers the footprint and land requirements of an 18,000 capacity stadium, 3,000 capacity arena and 200 key hotel. Accommodating OUFC’s goal of a year round, multi-use venue, that both enables the stadium and enhances the local community facilities will be integral to the next stages of the project. Due to the evolving nature of the project the proposal is now a stadium only.”
The bold text at the end reflects the fact that in the final stages of the report writing the project has been substantially transformed to be stadium only. However, the bulk of the report still covers the stadium and associated commercial development that had originally been planned on Stratfield Brake and the Triangle.
The Triangle site is in the Green Belt and with planned development on both sides of the A4165 Oxford Road is one of the last remaining open spaces between Kidlington and Oxford. The site is not allocated for any kind of development in the existing Local Plan and has not been an option in the Local Plan that is currently under preparation. Building a football stadium on it would therefore be in direct contravention of both local and Green Belt Planning Policy.
Link to OUFC website where the redacted OUFC report can be found: https://oufcstadium.co.uk/december-update/
Download this press release as a PDF file.