OXFORD United have hit the first hurdle in their search for a new stadium after councillors agreed to defer a decision on the club’s plans for Stratfield Brake.

This afternoon, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet decided to launch a four-week consultation process on the U's proposal to lease the land, south of Kidlington.

This will run from January 25 until February 21, with cabinet recommended to make a decision at their meeting on March 15.

Council officers had recommended that cabinet members approve the proposal to lease the land, which would have allowed the club to enter into negotiations over the site.

Several councillors and members of the community had their say, with many in agreement that the eight-day period between the club announcing their intentions for Stratfield Brake and today’s meeting had not allowed sufficient information to be gathered.

The U’s have asked to lease 18 hectares for 250 years, with a view to building an 18,000-capacity stadium, sports and community grounds and hotel, retail and conference facilities.

It is a setback in United’s search for a long-term home, with their lease at the Kassam Stadium set to expire in 2026.

Calum Miller, cabinet member for finance, proposed to the meeting that a four-week consultation process on the plans should be undertaken.

Meanwhile, officers will begin exploratory discussions with United and the council’s tenants at the sports ground, keeping in mind the club's timeline to find a new home.

Mr Miller said: “This is a very significant proposal. There are implications for the people of Oxfordshire in general and residents in this area in particular as well as for the environment, the wider economy and job creation and the future of the county’s only professional football club.

“Very careful consideration was given at our cabinet meeting as to whether we had sufficient information to authorise officers to start negotiations with the club.

“In the last week, it has been clear that many local residents and interested individuals and organisations want more time to consider the idea and to share their views with the county council.

“The Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance is committed to participatory, open and transparent decision-making.

“These initial exchanges of view have highlighted a number of important issues. Rather than rushing into a decision today, we have asked officers to run a four-week public engagement exercise so that we can hear the views of those who care about this proposal.

“We hope that this will help us understand the views of the public on whether to proceed and, if so, which principles to apply to the negotiation.

“We appreciate that Oxford United face a tight timeline as they seek to secure a new home for their matches from 2026.

“We have asked officers to continue exploratory conversations with the club to address some of the issues that have been raised already and to take account of what we hear during the engagement exercise.

“When the cabinet meets in March, we will then have more information on which to base a decision on whether to enter into formal negotiations.”

The most controversial contribution to the meeting came from a resident called John Hill, who outlined his argument against the proposal.

He suggested United do not have the money to see the project through, adding: "It's in the interest of the community that United are not the party chosen to develop the site because it's abundantly clear they don't have the people, the finances or the skill-set to bring this to a conclusion."

The U’s are backed by wealthy investors, including former Inter Milan owner Erick Thohir – who was on the board of MLS club DC United when they built their 20,000-capacity stadium Audi Field.

Mr Hill added: "This council shouldn't be too strongly focused on United's lease.

“It's commonplace for football clubs to share grounds, it's United's option to do this if they wish to leave the Kassam Stadium."

He alluded to Sky Bet Championship club Coventry City, who ground-shared with Northampton Town in 2013/14 and Birmingham City for two seasons from 2019.

Several speakers felt more discussions were needed before they could make a decision, with Liberal Democrat leader Andrew Gant ‘cautiously optimistic’ about United’s proposal and county councillor Ian Middleton ‘cautiously neutral’.

The latter, who represents Kidlington South, said the U’s ‘must take into account the impact on the communities they represent’.

The Green Party councillor told the meeting he was concerned that the stadium was earmarked for Green Belt Land.

The county council has been ‘very clear’ that any plans must allow greater access to green spaces.

Mr Middleton said: "To expect more green belt land to be swallowed up on a site like this may be a bridge too far."