KPC meeting and after

20th Apr 2023

The following email was circulated to OxVox members on 6 April 2023. To be among the first to receive these emails, join the trust using the online links on this site.

KPC meeting and after

Welcome to members and associate members after what has been a very busy week. While taking note of the club accounts published this week, which we will be discussing with the club soon, we focused on stadium issues and the Kidlington Parish Council (KPC) meeting on March 30th.

Before the meeting

We spoke with Kidlington residents keen to make sure there was fair representation at the meeting. Our aim was to get the word out to residents who support the stadium project or who, like many, have an open mind and want to hear more information. Between us we put together a flyer which OxVox produced and paid for, and local supporters did an amazing job of distributing it around the village.

County Council input

We know from meetings with councillors, the club, and residents that the calm and respectful way with which fans have approached debate regarding the stadium has been very well received and has won us more support. This again was evident as the meeting started.

After the other parish council business was taken care of, we heard from Cllr Calum Miller from the County Council cabinet responsible for negotiating Heads of Terms with the club. He stressed that the cabinet were pushing forward and keen to make sure we are not delayed. He mentioned three possible timetables for the completion of Heads of Terms with a narrow deadline to be able to complete by July, a more reasonable and likely option of September, and a later completion in November.

The Triangle and Friends of Stratfield Brake

There were some interventions from the floor in opposition to the stadium and claims that the club had not produced enough information for locals to evaluate the project. This might be a fair argument, but claiming we have had a year to produce them is nonsense. Since Friends of Stratfield Brake (FoSB) campaigned so hard to rule out Stratfield Brake without even seeing any details, plans and reports have had to have been completely rewritten for the Triangle. That was less than four months ago. It is also very interesting to note that at that time, FoSB called plans to relocate sports teams to the Triangle as completely inappropriate as it was ‘unsuitable’, ‘further from Kidlington’ and fenced off and ‘contaminated land’. They now claim that same land is loved and valuable green space.

On this and other issues relating to the stadium project, FoSB’s views are illogical and ill-informed, and have at times strayed into unsavoury comments about OUFC, its ownership, and its supporters. All these things are noted by OxVox and our supporters but more importantly by councillors and residents of Kidlington. We will never change FoSB minds. They are not interested in knowing details because their mind was made up as soon as the proposal was raised, just as it has been with the numerous other developments they have opposed. Even their own website makes it clear they don’t think the residents of Kidlington deserve to see the plans before making a decision. We have become accustomed to them claiming to speak for Kidlington residents, but now it appears they are keen to spend their money too. This also became evident as the meeting progressed.

Niall McWilliams and further discussion

After Calum Miller had spoken, Niall McWilliams was given the chance to speak. I have known Niall for some years now and we have at times disagreed, most notably on communication with supporters, but throughout that time Niall has always been honest and available to us and above all he is a supporter of both our city and our club. He spoke honestly about what this move meant to the club and about what he hoped it could mean to the community. Questions and discussion followed and a number of topics were raised by Kidlington residents and by FoSB.

A general consensus among locals present seemed to be that there was lots of support for the project, but that many wanted to see more details. Niall assured everyone that the club were working hard to provide more updated information for the new site.

While passions tend to run high at these meetings, things up to that point had run smoothly with minimal interruptions. KPC chair David Robey kept proceedings moving along and was even-handed with most speakers. The meeting seemed to be winding down when it was announced that FoSB had lodged a petition calling for a Kidlington residents’ poll to be taken to authorise KPC to oppose the stadium.

The poll, its cost, and timing

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and using a rather archaic and little known procedure, FoSB were fully within their rights to call for such a poll. The frustration of many locals there was that it was sprung on them at the last minute. Also, having demanded more information from the club, the timing of the poll is an attempt to drive opinion in the village before locals have had a chance to evaluate the benefits of the project.

This did raise heated discussions and questions for both the council, and those who had promoted the poll. This intensified when it was revealed the poll, called by a group based outside Kidlington, would cost the village £7,000 to run. Many of the questions from that point on centred on why they would hold an expensive poll on something that had not been fully released yet. Given that just four months previously the site had been changed, it is not unreasonable for the club to need a little more time to offer amended plans.

While the whole thing could have been handled much better, it is fair to say that David Robey’s hands were tied. He offered FoSB the chance to withdraw the poll until the club had submitted more information, but they declined. At that point two of the locals who had been asked to sign the petition to force the poll (ten local residents are required) put their hands up and asked to remove their names. Both suggested they wanted to hear more about what the club intended to do and wanted to give other locals more time to evaluate. The first to pull out then mentioned she had been ‘press-ganged’ into signing up on the night, and hadn’t been told the vote would be made during that meeting. At this point the parish finance representative reminded everyone that the parish council remained neutral on the development. To highlight this he pointed out the FoSB had actually applied for funding from the parish council to fight the development, which was turned down. It appears they are more than happy to spend the money of Kidlington residents, without them getting a chance to see what they might gain.

The next steps

While not being able to stop the poll, residents proposed an amendment to the wording of the poll question, to the effect that KPC should “support” the building of a stadium in Kidlington, not “oppose” it. This vote was passed and the poll will take place in the coming weeks. While a relatively unimportant poll in terms of the council cabinet, it is vitally important that the silent majority in Kidlington who support, or want to get a broader picture of the benefits this development will bring to their village, vote in this poll for the parish to support the stadium.

Once we have dates and details we will contact all our members on how they can get involved, but we are asking all members and supporters in the Kidlington parish to gather as many residents as they can to support this poll. For those living outside the parish, if you have friends or family in Kidlington then canvass them for their support. This is a massive chance to show that the people of Kidlington deserve the opportunity to see what a community hub could provide for them.

Our response

This poll is frivolous, and public consultation was already planned, but we must step up and prove to the cabinet and later the planning department that local people are open to the project and want to know more about it. It’s time to show what this community of supporters can do again.

The people we need to convince are not serial objectors from north Oxford who don’t want to see plans or details, they just want to oppose any local development. We continue to take note of their increasingly hostile campaign but in truth they are a small group and challenging them often just gives them oxygen. If we keep progressing the positives of this community project then the people that matter will judge this projects on its merits.

Finally a huge thank you to all our members, associates and supporters for their help, energy and positive input that is moving this project forward. We are asking for your help again to make sure our voice is heard.

Thank you, and as always…..COYY !

Paul Peros