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Developer sells 50 per cent stake in Lichfield’s Friarsgate scheme

A developer has sold its stake in the proposed Friarsgate project in Lichfield.

A new artist's impression of the Friarsgate development

A new artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

The £100million scheme designed to transform Lichfield city centre is set to include shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema.

However, S Harrison Developments Ltd have now sold their 50 per cent stake to partner Development Securities PLC.

“We are committed to delivering Friarsgate, a scheme with significant appeal for retailers and leisure operators, in spite of the prolonged adverse market conditions,” said Matthew Weiner, director at Developmnt Securities.

“We look forward to a renewed focus on attracting good brands to Friarsgate and delivering a scheme which positively impacts on Lichfield.”

Lichfield District Council insisted the sale would not impact on the delivery of the controversial Friarsgate scheme.

Leader Mike Wilcox said: “We are keen Lichfield city remains high on the agenda of businesses looking to invest.

“We will be working with Development Securities to understand how the proposed changes to the Friarsgate development partnership can help to drive forward the ongoing revitalisation of Lichfield City centre.”

Yorkshire-based S Harrison will continue to work on the Friary Outer scheme which is currently progressing in the city.

The firm’s director David Clancy added: “Our business has recently shifted its focus from this sector, and it makes sense for Development Securities to take the scheme forward to delivery.

“The company is well resourced, very experienced in this sector and absolutely focused on seeing the scheme through to fruition. We wish them well.”

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24 Comments

  1. Eddie

    15th February, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    “We will be working … to drive forward the ongoing revitalisation of Lichfield City centre.”

    Ongoing? I wasn’t aware any significant revitalisation has started in the City – the imminent opening of Debenhams in the old T J Hughes site doesn’t count, it’s just a replacement for an old shop.
    We need a cinema and other leisure facilities asap. Get Friarsgate built – it’s better than this death by a thousand cuts of inertia that Lichfield’s suffering from now…

  2. Lich_Ranger

    15th February, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Eddie err TJ Hughes …. Debenhams …. No comparison in terms of shops. If you don’t think that will revitalise Lichfield City Centre then what on earth will?
    There is a desire to build Friarsgate but in case it has escaped your attention, we’ve had a bit of a recession going on since 2008. This has dented the confidence of retailers to commit to new schemes, but I think the fact Debenhams is coming to Lichfield demonstrates that things are slowly turning around and that in time, more retailers will come. Let’s give it a chance and if Debenhams is successful in attracting more footfall to the centre, leading to more empty units in 3 Spires being taken, then perhaps Friarsgate will eventually attract the necessary commitments and get built. I firmly agree that Lichfield so desperately needs it to add to the mix of retailers and improve the leisure offer.

  3. Eddie

    15th February, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I just want a cinema in Lichfield! It’s so frustrating when the old cinema still lies empty (?) but the promised Friarsgate development with its cinema must be stopping any independent cinema opening. There must be a market for it!
    Yes I agree, Debenhams will be a big improvement on TJH. It seems like the hold up with Frairsgate is creating more of the retail problems in Lichfield – reinforcing the closures we have suffered already. Only investment will pull people and money back into Lichfield. I wait with baited breath…

  4. Darryl

    16th February, 2013 at 12:23 am

    This has been going on so long that the artists impression is starting to look long in the tooth.

    If the desire is to get the town centre revitalised then look at LDC and ask what are they doing to reduce business rates?

    It’s started to look like another amazing UK bureaucratic debacle.

    “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.”
    –Eugene McCarthy

  5. Lich_Ranger

    16th February, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Agree the cinema is a must but the old one just won’t cut the mustard in terms of modern needs. We desperately need Friarsgate to happen on more than 1 front fujr sure. It will bring modern retailers who require the deeper units than 3 spires currently offers so one won’t diplace the other – it’s horses for courses. It’s no good thinking that Lichfield can survive with just small independents, as some people often espouse. It’s great that we have a good base of such retailers and that is what makes Lichfield so special already, but we need these bigger retailers, restaurant chains and leisure operators to bring in the footfall. That way, all the city’s businesses will become more viable. Let’s just hope that Debenhams kick starts the revival, the economy recovers and this eventually provides the necessary confidence for Friarsgate to get built. We will have one hell of an offer if it does, that is for sure!

  6. Cynic

    16th February, 2013 at 12:28 am

    ” Friarsgate development with its cinema must be stopping any independent cinema opening. There must be a market for it!” Apart from you wanting it – what makes you think it is viable?

  7. Lich_Ranger

    16th February, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Not the old business rates chestnut! The council can do nothing as things stand to reduce business rates and they certainly don’t spend them. These are set by and paid over to Central Government for eventual redistribution. LDC is no more than the collection agency. Things might change in the future though when councils have the ability to retain part of the rates they collect, especially if there has been growth in the rates collected. This might give some ability to offer incentives but we will have to wait and see how that develops.

  8. Cynic

    16th February, 2013 at 12:37 am

    “If the desire is to get the town centre revitalised then look at LDC and ask what are they doing to reduce business rates?”
    To cut tax you need to cut spending. Look around Lichfield and point out what the council have done with many £millions spent over the last 3 or 4 decades?
    What stands out? Answers on a pin head!

  9. Darryl

    16th February, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Without business there is no growth, such is the oxymoron of disassociating business rates from local councils and blaming central government.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Gideon, but there’s plenty of scope for LDC to help business into 3S. As it stands the place will be a ghost town with Debenhams at the end.

  10. Lich_Ranger

    16th February, 2013 at 12:49 am

    You said ‘what’s LDC doing to reduce business rates’ and the answer is they can’t simple as. They also don’t own the 3 spires units so don’t set the rents, so please tell me what else you think they should be doing to get businesses into 3 Spires? It’s down to the property owners but they have done well to secure Debenhams, which will massively increase the footfall – that will I am sure lead to the other empty units being filled.

  11. Darryl

    16th February, 2013 at 12:53 am

    *sigh*

    They control the distribution, business rates are not rent.

  12. Lich_Ranger

    16th February, 2013 at 1:13 am

    *Sighs back!*

    They control the distribution of what exactly? Not rates that is for sure. These get sent to central govt. Yes I know rates are not rent (don’t know how you thought I was suggesting that!) – the point is that LDC don’t control either rates or rents so cannot provide the financial incentives that you think they can – that is down to the owners of the 3 Spires. Is that clear enough?

  13. Darryl

    16th February, 2013 at 1:16 am

    Very clear. Well not for you. Here we go:

    Business rates are collected by local government and collated centrally, then redistributed to local government to, well, promote business, piss up the wall, etc…

    Poor little LDC, clearly from your point of view they’re just stuck in the middle of the big-bad government and the over-demanding public.

  14. Gareth Thomas

    16th February, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Daryl, oh dear , the situation is as Lich_ranger has described. The Three spires is privately owned, rents are therefore determined by the property management company and not Lichfield district council.

    Business rates are set by Central govt and decided by the Valuation agency, a central govt unit. Here is a link

    http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/info/200012/business_rates/71/how_are_business_rates_calculated/4

    and also have a look at item 7 on this web page

    http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/800/cabinet

    and finally read item 11 on this page

    http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/799/cabinet

    When you have digested all this , please tell me what you expect a local authority to do exactly? Provide a solution to the world wide economic downturn?

    Perhaps Lichfield Council should attend the G7 summits as you feel we need to find the solutions to what the rest of the world is still struggling with.

    To be honest when you look around at other places like walsall, stoke, etc Lichfield is actually doing fairly well, the number of empty units is lesser and the are indications that units are being let and this looks like to reduce over this year

    Debenhams , nothing to do with LDC, decided on Lichfield because they thought Lichfield was doing better than most and looked a promising city on the up turn for this year.

    You also have a part to play and keep using your local facilities and shops and taking part in Lichfield …..

    and before you say “I pay my Council Tax” do you really believe that counil tax covers everything in this city …??

  15. andre hefer

    16th February, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Gareth

    There are two things that Lichfield District Council can do:

    (1) It has or will shortly gain the power to reduce business rates. This is part of the business rates retention scheme for Local Authorities. This could contribute to making the development proposal economically viable. See link below

    https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/giving-local-authorities-more-control-over-how-they-spend-public-money-in-their-area–2

    (2) Lichfield District Council owns a lot of the freehold. As the land owner, as well as the planning authority, it can stop flogging a dead horse, and try understanding why retailers have given Friarsgate the cold shoulder many times over many years, and bring forward a proposal that better meets the needs of retailers and the local community.

  16. Cllr Susan Woodward

    16th February, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Of course, all of this makes a town centre development for Burntwood even less likely. The town desperately needs a better retail and leisure offer. We’ve had many promises over the years but little coming to fruition even though it would benefit whole District, not just town itself.

  17. Darren Ennis

    16th February, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I cant see why revitalising a area is causing such negativeness? This is a joint Venture so not costing us from the Lichfield District as much as it could.

    Also S Harrison Developments Ltd and Development Securities PLC having a stake in this will give them more inventive to push to get the shops filled, so better shopping in Lichfield, more jobs and more income. Not in itself a bad thing.

    And Sue as to Burntwood, this is always a sore subject and something where I think the only way forward is more independent investment needs to be found as LDC seems to invest in more local venture to the City Centre.

  18. Gareth Thomas

    16th February, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    andre, the freehold is let on 125 year lease, until 125 years is up the council can do very little …. Basic land and property law

    Its not a business rates issue, speak with a large retailer… I do , there is not enough confidence by the big retailers to expand right now, You only have to look at the demise of some of the big names on the high street to show this.

    For anyone to believe that a development is about business rates is foolish, the picture is a lot wider that that, new build schemes are a huge risk right now. The very same is applying to large house build schemes lots of interest, lots of planning applications but little in terms of desire to build now

  19. Lich_Ranger

    16th February, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    At last an informed opinion from Gareth! Daryl your view of how local government & local public services in general is massively over simplistic & based on popularist ill informed views that ‘play to the gallery’. It’s true business rates are redistributed to local government in the form of grants but there is a complicated formula for this which means the grant bears no relation to the rates collected. This is so areas with smaller rates takes can be subsidised by areas with bigger rates takes. Add to this the fact that govt also has to fund big beasts like county councils, police, fire etc out of local taxation & undeniable fact that govt has cut the grant to loc gov by around 25 % over this parliament and you can appreciate how there’s very little flexibility for LCD. Gareth’s right re council tax too – I believe LCD keeps less than 10% of this with the rest going to Staffs County, Police, Fire etc.
    Andre is right about business rates retention as I acknowledged earlier but this won’t come in until April.
    As for Friarsgate the reason is clear why retailers haven’t signed up – recession. LDC is working with the development industry who know the market & what retailers etc want so when confidence returns hopefully Friarsgate will be well placed to benefit & will then proceed.

  20. Gareth Thomas

    16th February, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    This is a view expressed by most council’s on the business rates retention scheme

    http://www.lgcplus.com/finance/outcry-as-deadline-for-pooling-business-rates-brought-forward/5048539.article

  21. andre hefer

    16th February, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Gareth, it may be leased for 125 years but if the passing rent is low then the present value of negotiating a lease surrender will be negligible in the scheme of a £100M development. Has this been taken care of by the compulsory purchase order?

    Absolutely agree that since retailers confidence is low they are unlikely to want to commit to new floor space and very likely to exercise break clauses on existing floor space and move to the internet. Has the time not come to look again at a mixed development, city centre living in combination with retail on the site.

    Up and down the country there are 200 other Friarsgate type developments stalled on the drawing board. Internet sales are eating 1% of retail sales every year and have done so for the past decade. The retailers are not interested because their research tells them that there is little to be achieved from expansion other than more cost and cannibalising sales elsewhere.

  22. Jozef Nakielski

    2nd August, 2013 at 10:24 am

    It is partly to do with business rates.
    A development needs tenants and unless they think they can fit the shop out and make that money back plus the rent plus the business rates, plus the bills, plus wages plus a profit they won’t sign up. We’re in a recession. Building companies aren’t building speculative properties at the moment. I think one of the first in the country is at Birch Coppice between Atherstone and Tamworth and thats a shed type unit. Companies just aren’t prepared to take the risk of ending up with no tenants. Nuneaton is about to build two new developments, knocking the lovely library down and building a cornflake box replacement with box hotel and lots of new shops. A supermarket at the other end. Both will suck trade and tenants from an already struggling town centre.
    The last Development that Nuneaton had, Rope Walks still isn’t and never has been fully let. It must be getting on for 7 years now at least. Before that they had Abbey.. can’t remember, but it was an open concrete precinct. Developer bought it. Council refused to let them have a roof , doors and indoor paving, Eventually they got a roof, eventually they got doors but it is still outdoor paving. I say that because it may have added to why they couldn’t let the units which for some reason they emptied when they took over. Even now about 15+ years on they still can’t let all the units.
    It is no use building units if no one wants them. there is no point replacing a nice building with architecture with box or shed architecture.

    I have no idea where this development is going, I’ve only seen the drawing on here. Whilst it isn’t a box and does have some design features it isn’t fantastic either. Design is everything in a town centre. design and architecture can drastically improve foot fall. Or reduce it.

    One comment I did notice. small shops. many towns suffer from a lack of decent sized shops. that makes it even more difficult for a shop to make their costs. less stock is less choice and less choice is less sales.

  23. Cynic

    2nd August, 2013 at 11:06 am

    “It is partly to do with business rates.”

    I agree overall with your last post – To many people do not seem to understand high tax (all types) have to be passed on .A small shop can not supply the choice we see in the very big stores and the small business can not afford a medium sized store. I understand a medium store in town rent/rates is circa £100K PA plus utilities – insur – wages etc.
    When we discuss bus rates/tax, too many prefer to ridicule the idea but Lichfield is in microcosm what the county/Gov have in larger scale.
    IMO if it goes ahead in the near future we will see more of what we are currently seeing – shops playing chess – moving from one store to another.

  24. Jozef Nakielski

    2nd August, 2013 at 11:43 am

    of course Cynic, that is exactly what happened in Nuneaton. They all moved out. site gets redeveloped, then you get a few move back straight away which leaves gaps in the town and the rest stay empty so you’ve two areas with empty shops. It is very rare these days to get a 100% take up on a new development. Tis a vicious circle you won’t get new shops without the footfall and you won’t get the footfall without new shops.
    Of course parking charges and lack of public toilets doesn’t help. I have an allergic reaction to ticket machines so avoid them at all cost. I’d rather walk half a mile into town than pay to park.