So there we have it, the much-hyped Friarsgate development is put back…again.

The alarm bells should certainly be ringing given that no-one’s prepared to put a start date on a development that has been heralded as the key to Lichfield’s future. Given that the work was due to begin in Easter 2008 you have to wonder whether it’ll ever actually see the light of day, certainly in the retail/cinema/hotel/apartments vision that we have been sold.

There’s no doubting that the development shouldn’t go ahead at the present time if there’s any danger of it becoming a concrete white elephant saddling Lichfield with even more empty shops than it already has.

There’s also an argument that the development isn’t what Lichfield really needs to move the city forward. Getting a Debenhams – the key selling point of much of the Friarsgate scheme in the media – won’t see shoppers ditching their traditional haunts for our corner of Staffordshire.

What the city really should have looked at was how to give the shopping a unique flavour and make it an attractive draw and something that shoppers wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.

In a city packed with history, it still amazes me that this isn’t built upon with a better traditional market and improved packages to attract independent retailers. It’s ironic that with history underpinning much of Lichfield – and placing restraints on the changing face of the city – that it isn’t incorporated and built upon more in the forward planning of our city.

Replicating every other building-by-numbers city centre isn’t ever going to be anything other than a short-term fix. Perhaps this delay could be a blessing in disguise if it forces the decision-makers to think again.

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

6 replies on “Is Friarsgate really the best vision of the future of shopping in Lichfield?”

  1. I can’t understand why Lichfield’s great, good and otherwise seem hell-bent on making the city look like just about every other place in the country.

    The centre of the city already lacks any kind of soul, Friarsgate and the mammoth Tesco store just confirms that sad fact.

    Lichfield has so much in its favour, alas that doesn’t seem to include its own planners.

  2. There is another factor to consider with the Birmingham Road development – Tamworth.

    Just 20 minutes down the road is a large town with a far bigger range of household names and the new Gungate development (which will probably go ahead at the same time but finish sooner) rumoured to big attracting big names like Primark and Topshop.

    Tamworth is significant competition and you have to wonder whether retailers would pluck for little Lichfield or big, established Tamworth – especially in this climate.

  3. It’s that fear of Lichfield being the poor relations which makes me wonder whether opting for a radically different approach should be the road to go down instead.

  4. Personally I abhor the idea of Friarsgate; I moved to Lichfield because I wanetd to get away from urban developments. If I want Debenhams, I get on the train and go to Birmingham, ior go to the soulless retail park where I’m obliged to work. Can you see the people of Ludlow accepting a shopping devlopment in the middle of their beautiful market town? Never. But the problem with Lichfield is that’s it’s too close to Birmingham, and all these dreadful planning decisions are being foisted on us because we are in the commuter belt. Personally I think Tamworth can keep its chain stores – i’d rather shop locally, and improving the market is a brilliant idea, but, sadly, one that nobody will have the balls or the imagination to see through.

  5. Lichfield has a long and proud history of approving architecturally abhorrent building programmes – the Job Centre, anyone? Or the Police Station? Or the buildings blocking the view of the Cathedral from Minster Pool?

    So what ever they do with Friarsgate, you can be sure that history shall prevail.

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