CHANCES of a new stadium for Oxford United north of the city could be lost forever if thousands of homes are built, it has been claimed.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth said land at Water Eaton would be the best place in the county to put a new home for the U's as well as a host of other sports facilities, such as an ice rink and 50-metre swimming pool

But he warned that plans to earmark the land for more than 2,200 homes could scupper the opportunity forever.

The prospect of a new ground near Water Eaton was first mooted in the summer of 2014, and last night United's managing director Greig Box Turnbull said although the club currently backed plans for the Kassam Stadium to become community owned, the board was 'open minded' to alternatives.

Mr Hudspeth said: "If we decide to build houses on this land, that is it - there would not be an opportunity to put something else there in the future.

"I am not saying that could happen overnight, but it would be terrible if we built houses there and years later people realise this was actually somewhere we could have had a centre of excellence for sport.

"If you built a facility like that, you would also not need the club's existing stadium or Oxford's ice rink, which could be redeveloped for housing.

"To me, that seems like a win-win and I think there needs to be a proper debate before it is too late."

The land near to the Water Eaton Park-and-Ride and Oxford Parkway station is in the Green Belt, but could be chosen by Cherwell District Council to build homes in order to meet demands in the city.

But Mr Hudspeth said moving the sport facilities there would open opportunities to build homes on sites that would then become vacant such as Oxford Ice Rink and the Kassam Stadium in Grenoble Road.

Mr Box Turnbull said: "As things stand OxVox are in progressive talks with Firoz Kassam regarding the community taking ownership of the Kassam Stadium, which would significantly benefit the football club.

"We have supported this and are keen to see this conclude without delay.

"That said we are open minded to alternatives that would ensure the club benefits commercially and achieves sustainability."

Writing to Cherwell District Council Mr Hudspeth added: "The current football stadium is in poor condition, with poor transport connectivity.

"By developing a new stadium with room to expand and a hotel with conference facilities Oxford could attract national or even international sporting events."

But city council leader Bob Price said he thought the best use for the site was housing that has been proposed.

He added: "Mr Hudspeth is obviously entitled to his opinion, but we need a very large number of homes to meet Oxfordshire's needs now and over the next current 16 years and this is a very well-situated and sustainable site.

"That is why it has been put forward."

He said the areas covered by the ice rink and Kassam Stadium were too small and would only be able to make an 'irrelevant' contribution to housing figures overall.

A study by the city council said there was room for about 200 homes at the stadium in Grenoble Road, with plans for land around the ice rink only including up to 500 homes.

The deadline to comment on the plans by Cherwell District Council is midnight today.