OxVox Stadium Options Meeting with Cherwell District Council
Date: Tuesday 14th November 2017. Time: 4pm to 5.30pm.
Venue: Cherwell District Council Offices, Bodicote, Banbury.
Yvonne Rees (YR) Cherwell DC Chief Executive, Barry Wood (BW) Leader of Cherwell DC, Adrian Colwell (AC) Head of Strategic Planning and the Economy, Ian Hudspeth (IH) Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Darryl Eales (DE) Chairman of OUFC, Jem Faulkner (JF) Chair of OxVox.
The meeting had been arranged by Ian Hudspeth (IH) to follow up on previous meetings he had held with JF and DE and also meetings that had been conducted by JF and DE with Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, as well as numerous meetings/communications with Firoz Kassam, owner of the Kassam Stadium – OUFC’s home.
The above meetings, conducted over the last 12 to 18 months, had sought to find ways for a more equitable stadium solution at the Kassam Stadium and/or to investigate opportunities for a new site, somewhere within Oxfordshire.
1. JF opened the meeting by thanking everyone for taking the time to meet. Everyone introduced themselves and JF and AC briefly discussed their previous meeting last year.
2. JF explained to the meeting that OxVox had been working on trying to assist in creating a more equitable stadium arrangement with Firoz Kassam for over a year, as well as exploring opportunities for a possible relocation.
3. DE explained his dealings with Firoz Kassam and the status of the current rental and service charge agreements. DE said there were now only 8 years to go before the current agreement (license) expires, but the club has an option to renew for a further 25 years if they so wish.
4. DE said that he had felt that the Kassam Stadium was potentially a very good home for the club, but had become frustrated that he’d not been able to secure a sensible deal for the football club and therefore was always open to learning of options and potential new sites that could be available for a relocation. JF agreed and that this was the OxVox position also.
5. BW asked about the funding for a potential alternative site. DE said funding would be found and not be a hurdle, if an appropriate alternative site was found.
6. The meeting moved on to talk about 2 sites that sit within the Cherwell DC area. Water Eaton and Stratfield Brake. JF asked if indeed these sites would be possible for a relocation of the stadium.
7. BW said they were not, but referred the question to AC and asked him to go through the details on each location. AC then produced a detailed map and highlighted both the sites in question to those present.
8. AC explained why both sites were not viable and that green belt, buffer zone and planning constraints meant no development of a stadium was possible on either site.
9. AC talked about historic meetings with the farmer who owned land at Water Eaton (adjacent to the Water Eaton station) and that the farmer had no interest in selling.AC made it clear however that the Cherwell DC interest in this land was not for a football stadium or leisure.
10. DE asked that ‘if’ there ever was a way of developing on these sites, what would the timescales look like? AC and YR both said it was hypothetical as neither site was possible, but that ‘if’ either were, then it would take a minimum of 10 years.
11. IH said that it was disappointing news, but that it was good to have clarity, as these sites had generated media interest and they could now be discounted.
12. AC said that he realised the reasoning and planning considerations were complex and not easy to understand and that he would be happy to meet again with DE, OxVox members and others (if they were interested), to explain the details. JFand DE both said that this might be very helpful and they would come back to him, but would most likely take him up on the offer.
13. The meeting then moved on to discuss other potential sites within Oxfordshire and specifically within the Cherwell DC area.
14. AC said that both West Oxon DC and most of South Oxon DC were highly unlikely to yield a suitable site. The only area of interest in South Oxon DC that might be of interest, would be close to the current stadium site on Grenoble Road. AC explained that the stadium was in City Council territory. The land on the other side of the road, although owned by the City Council, was in fact in South Oxon DC territory.
15. AC said the land on the other side of Grenoble Road was however earmarked for housing.
16. JF asked those present if they were aware of the potential for the much talked about rail line/station at the Science Park on Grenoble Road. Those present confirmed that this was indeed the case and was being planned. No timings were discussed.
17. The meeting discussed other potential areas and sites that could be large enough to include opportunities for additional commercial development that could support a stadium – hotels, leisure etc. Various possibilities were discussed. DE and JF asked if it were possible to be sent details of the area. Those present from Cherwell DC agreed to do this.
18. The meeting then had a general discussion about ‘the world of football’, social media and the finances and challenges involved in running a football club. YRexplained she was a Crystal Palace fan and had a fair idea of how tough it was to be a football fan!
19. DE invited all those present to join him as his guest at an OUFC match soon.
20. The meeting ended with a thanks from DE, JF and IH for the openness of the Cherwell DC team and the clarity of the information provided. AC re-iterated his ‘on the record’ offer to meet with any interested parties to explain the Water Eaton & Stratfield Brake sites.
The meeting closed at 5.30pm.