CONCERNS over the green belt continue to be raised after Oxford United outlined Stratfield Brake as its preferred site for a new stadium.

On Monday, the U’s announced that a formal proposal has been made to landowner Oxfordshire County Council regarding the sports ground, south of Kidlington.

The club has asked the council to lease part of Stratfield Brake for 250 years, with a view to building an 18,000-capacity stadium, training and community sports grounds, and hotel, retail and conference facilities.

If a deal is agreed, the club will then be able to submit a planning application to planning authority, Cherwell District Council.

United have examined several potential sites for a long-term home, with the licence agreement at the Kassam Stadium set to expire in 2026.

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The site at Stratfield Brake is on green belt land and has left a sour taste in the mouths of environment groups.

A spokesperson for CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Oxfordshire said: “This is a major development proposed in the green belt, with associated traffic impacts, in an area already under significant pressure from housing development and where the green belt is at its narrowest point, known as the ‘Kidlington Gap’.

“It is likely to fail most of the purposes of the green belt, including protecting the setting of the city and preventing the coalescence of settlements.

“They will therefore need to prove exceptional circumstances exist, to explain why the stadium can’t be located anywhere else and why the harm it will inevitably cause will be outweighed by the benefits.

“We will wait to see their arguments but at this point think it unlikely that it could be justified.”

Oxford Mail: Oxford United has outlined Stratfield Brake as its preferred site for a new stadium. Picture: Ed NixOxford United has outlined Stratfield Brake as its preferred site for a new stadium. Picture: Ed Nix

POETS (Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment and Transport Sustainably) is a group of planning, environment and transport professionals and academics.

David Young, former director of environmental services at the county council, said: “We’ve been involved in planning for a long time and prefer to comment on the bigger issues which affect everybody in the county.

“We normally wouldn’t comment on an individual application and we don’t know very much about it at this stage – there’s a lot of questions to be answered.

“The area is under tremendous pressure from Oxford North though.”

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Despite the criticism from CPRE, Oxford Liberal Democrats welcomed the proposed move.

A statement from the party read: “The U’s have brought huge pride and entertainment to Oxford over many years, especially during lockdown, with an excellent recent run of form.

“Just as importantly, Oxford United contribute massively to our city through their outreach and community work.

“Oxford Liberal Democrats warmly welcome this proposal which could potentially enhance all of these aspects.

“We will work tirelessly to ensure the best interests of the team, to safeguard and enhance opportunities for the excellent community clubs at Stratfield Brake, to provide further facilities for Kidlington and surrounding areas, and to ensure that the principles of active travel, access to green space and the highest green building standards are applied.”

Earlier this week, parish council chairs warned of building on the green belt and increased congestion.

Read in full: Parish council chairs query green belt and traffic at stadium site

Gosford and Water Eaton Parish Council chair Clive Stayt said: “It’s a significant development for Oxford and the football club, the Kassam has been an issue over the years and this could be a way out.

“The biggest issue we would have is the gap to Oxford from where we are, is seeing 4,500 homes being built.

“Residents might also be concerned with noise pollution, light pollution and all the other issues which come with having a football stadium, such as traffic.

“With the new housing too, Kidlington may become a bit of a car park when they’re at home on a Saturday afternoon.”

Oxford Mail: Oxford United has outlined Stratfield Brake as its preferred site for a new stadium. Picture: Ed NixOxford United has outlined Stratfield Brake as its preferred site for a new stadium. Picture: Ed Nix

Kidlington Parish Council chair David Robey added: “United are committed to local sporting activity which will help sport in Kidlington.

“This stadium would understandably raise the profile of Kidlington, but we will have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.

“The problem we have locally is traffic congestion and loss of the green belt – we’re very concerned with protecting as much of the green belt around Kidlington.”

United were unable to comment on queries raised, however a club statement released on Monday highlighted that consultation will take place with residents and stakeholders.

The statement said: “The move to a new stadium will not be a short-term process and will be subject to the normal planning permissions and requirements, including wide-reaching and inclusive consultation with local residents, stakeholders and the community.

“Oxford United are committed to putting the supporters of the club, Kidlington and the wider community at the heart of discussions to bring forward plans for a new permanent home of which everyone associated with the club can be proud.

“The proposed stadium site is in a highly sustainable and accessible location, close to Oxford Parkway station, Oxford Parkway Park and Ride, and the A34, enabling fans to travel to games using alternative and sustainable forms of transport and moving away from the reliance on cars necessitated by the current location of the Kassam Stadium.”

The item will be discussed at the county council’s cabinet meeting on January 18.