BOB Price has set himself one final challenge – to do all he can to help solve Oxford United’s stadium conundrum.

But it seems like he could be taking on mission impossible.

The Oxford City Council leader, who will step down from his post at the end of this month, told the Oxford Mail he plans to contact Firoz Kassam within the next week to see if a ‘quid pro quo deal’ put to the landlord can be revived.

Mr Price revealed at a meeting for members of OxVox, United’s supporters’ group, on Wednesday night that the city council had approached Mr Kassam about a proposal that would see them agree a deal for the Kassam Stadium to be purchased at a reduced rate, but allow him to develop the land of the overflow car park.

Mr Price admits the city council has been frustrated by progress, but is hopeful he may be able to get the wheels back in motion before he leaves his position on February 1.

“On the back of the meeting, I have decided I need to get back in touch with Kassam before I hang up my boots,” he said.

“There is definitely something that can be done there, but of course it needs co-operation from him and at the moment that is not happening.”

But after the Oxford Mail spoke to the owner of the stadium, it became obvious Mr Price may be taking on one of his biggest challenges yet.

“I don’t need any favours,” Mr Kassam said.

“I am planning on providing housing for Oxfordshire which it desperately needs. I do not have to do deals in order to get planning permission so they can buy the stadium for a cheaper price.

“We are a commercial organisation not a charity.”

He added: “If the land has been zoned for housing then I am within my right to apply for housing.

“The local authority then have to decide whether they grant it or if I have to go to appeal and get it then.”

“My position has always been the same. The stadium will not be sold to anybody until I am happy it is in the interests of Oxford United Football Club long term.

“At the moment I am more than comfortable sitting on it and making sure it is a home for as long as they need it.

“Until the ownership of the club is finally addressed – because every other week it has been sold and then not sold – I will not make any decision on selling the stadium to anybody.

“There were discussions, I agree, but they have come to nothing and that is where we are.”

Mr Price told OxVox members the City Council are willing to approve development of the site, but only if it was done in the right way.

With Mr Kassam’s stadium company Firoka and Oxford United still in arbitration over a disagreement about service charges, the relationship between the two is strained.

But the City Council are keen to try to play their part in driving things forward.

“One of the things we have been trying to put into the debate with Firoz Kassam is that the overflow car park site is designated for housing,” Mr Price said.

“There is a significant opportunity in that area and it is a very attractive site for development.

“Part of our logic was that if you say to Kassam ‘sell the stadium for ‘X’ and you would get the opportunity to develop this particular bit of land and make money off that’.

“It would give him not just the money from the stadium, but also the housing site.

“We have had three planning applications from his consultant and they all fail to understand the nature of our requirements.

“Negotiations have stalled. He has not said no, but he has just stopped talking.

“It’s very frustrating because we want housing and we want to see the stadium in the hands of the club and Oxford people not a ‘national investor’ which is really what he is.

“That stand-off is a very difficult situation because it means we are not making progress on something that would be very good for the city.”

He added: “The site is designated for housing in our local plan, what we are saying is we can facilitate it.

“We can contribute to the infrastructure side of it if he does things with the club, so there is a quid pro quo element.

“He is, of course, able to submit an application that does not involve any deal involving the stadium. But he would need our help to provide the additional parking that would be lost. It just seems there could be an agreement reached that would be advantageous to both parties.”

Mr Price explained one potential option for that land would be to help Northfield Special School, situated a stone’s throw from the overflow car park, which is in need for improvement.

“It is in bad need of being refurbished, replaced, relocated or even rebuilt – so that it is a real opportunity,” he said.