Oxford City Council has set out the conditions under which it would support new leisure and community use at Oxford Stadium.
The City Council has written a specific policy in its emerging Local Plan that aims to bring back into use the Oxford Stadium, in Blackbird Leys. Without this policy, the City Council would unlikely to be able to stop the permanent loss of the stadium.
The emerging Local Plan – a key document that will underpinning planning rules until 2036 – is currently being examined by Government-appointed Planning Inspectors, who will decide whether or not each policy is ‘sound’ and can be included in the document.
The City Council has produced a new report exploring how it could facilitate a third-party operator bringing Oxford Stadium back into use – if the Oxford Stadium planning policy is found to be sound by the Planning Inspectors. The report will be discussed by the City Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 13 November.
The report makes it clear that Oxford City Council would not purchase Oxford Stadium using taxpayers’ money, and the City Council has no intention of bringing the stadium into public ownership.
Instead, the City Council would aim to act as a facilitator so that a private company could purchase the stadium from the current landlord in order to reopen it as a leisure or community facility.
Should the Planning Inspectors find that the Oxford Stadium planning policy is sound, the report sets out that the City Council would consider the following steps to bring back into use the Oxford Stadium:
- In the first instance, the City Council hopes that the current landowner will reopen the stadium for leisure and community uses
- However, if this does not happen within a timely period, the City Council will seek to take on a facilitating role and bring in a development partner or leisure operator with a viable business plan to buy Oxford Stadium and fund the redevelopment
- Finally, if the landowner is not willing to sell the site – and only as an absolute last resort – the City Council could use compulsory purchase order powers to buy the site to enable a third party operator to bring the facility back into use
If the absolute last resort option of compulsory purchase is necessary, a report would be produced explaining the details of the redevelopment, justifying the use of compulsory purchase powers, and explaining how the development partner or leisure operator would fund the project.
All compulsory purchase orders from local authorities need to be authorised by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Under the draft policy, the City Council would allow a small amount of housing to be built on the site to help fund the reopening of the stadium for leisure and community use.
The Planning Inspectors are expected to decide on the soundness of the Oxford Stadium policy, alongside all the policies contained with the City Council’s emerging Local Plan, next year after public hearings in December.
Oxford Stadium operated as both a greyhound racing and speedway venue for almost 70 years from its opening in 1939. It last saw professional sport in 2012.
“Oxford Stadium is a valuable community asset and we have always said that we would like to see it reopen for leisure or community use to benefit the residents of Oxford.
“But the City Council cannot fund that reopening with taxpayers’ money, and the business that takes over the stadium and reopens it for the community must be able to stand on its own two feet.
“We now await the decision from the Government-appointed Planning Inspector as to whether or not our policy seeking to protect Oxford Stadium for leisure and community use is sound.”
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport
For more information and updates about the Local Plan, please visit our Local Plan Examination pages.