An earlier artist's impression of the Friarsgate development

Calls have been made for a “radical rethink” of the Friarsgate shopping development in Lichfield.

Liberal Democrat City Councillor Ian Jackson has said the decision by developers S Harrison to sell their share in the project means it must be reconsidered completely.

Ian Jackson

In a newsletter distributed to local residents, Cllr Jackson said: “The District Council has been struggling to sell the Friarsgate shopping scheme to retailers for at least six years.

“Despite various alterations to suit changing demands and potential users, we seem no nearer starting.

“Now that the lead developer has finally walked away from the scheme we need a radical rethink to suit the changing retail market.”

The former District councillor’s comments are not the first time questions have been raised about the Friarsgate project.

But rather than axe it completely, Cllr Jackson has called for a more “achievable” solution to be considered.

“The decision was taken many years ago to complete the Friarsgate scheme before the development of the Bird Street car park,” he explained. “This made some sense at the time, but the collapse in demand for retail units means that we are now more likely to get the Bird Street scheme off the ground first.

Am artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

“A less ambitious, mixed use development of this site with underground car park and an attractive public open space beside Minster Pool would be far more achievable in the current economic climate.

“It would give time for the major changes needed to make the Friarsgate scheme viable.”

But the leader of Lichfield District Council has said their are no plans to rethink the project.

“Retail interest in Friarsgate remains strong, and our development partner, Development Securities, is continuing to advance discussions with major national retailers to anchor the scheme,” said Cllr Mike Wilcox.

“We are keen Lichfield city remains high on the agenda of businesses looking to invest and are working with Development Securities to help drive forward the ongoing revitalisation of Lichfield city centre.”

Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

5 replies on “Councillor calls for “radical rethink” of Lichfield Friarsgate development”

  1. The design was old hat from the start and some of us said it was rubbish way back then.
    Gradually they have tinkered with the plan but what it needs is a total rethink.
    For a start it needs to be all weather shopping fully covered with a roof.
    The idea of waiting to pay for a small item – then going out in the rain to queue for another item – very old fashioned – also it should have free parking and plenty of it. Most of all we do NOT want anything that will cost the tax payer by way of a subsidy/grant/gift/transfer or any other code word the council may think of.

  2. Comment provided by BSARA (Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association)

    From the outset BSARA has questioned the viability of Friarsgate. Our Association has always considered it to be “the wrong development in the wrong place at the wrong time“. The promoters have repeatedly failed to pre-let enough floor space to allow building to commence. So retailers also have their reservations. A smaller retail offering alongside leisure and affordable homes would makes more sense in a diverse City Centre that has historically been made up of commercial, retail and residential properties happily living alongside each other. Lichfield is not a shopping arcade; it has survived by providing diverse shops that service the daily requirements of its residents and the tourist trade. If Friarsgate is to succeed in these difficult times, it should avoid direct competition with the giants of internet retailing as well as the “destination” shopping locations e.g. the Bullring. A successful City Centre will be one which meets local needs through an integrated mixed use development. As in the past, future commercial success hinges on meeting the needs of our residents and our visitors.

    The current design is dead in the water. BSARA understand that the Friarsgate developers are preparing to withdraw the design that currently has planning consent, pending further attempts at marketing & redesign. Councillor Jackson’s idea of developing Bird Street (Woolies) car park is an unwelcome distraction which risks covering the same ground that proved unworkable in the past. A practical Friarsgate design which is economically viable will attract funding. That is the lesson from the Friary Outer development.

    BSARA thinks that the Bird Street (Woolies’) car park and Beacon Park sites are worth preserving. To protect them BSARA has applied for both sites to be listed as Assets of Community Value. Local communities can step in and protect local amenities under a new right, variously described as “the community right to bid” and “stop the clock“. For more details visit our website http://www.beaconstreetara.org/announcements

  3. In the present economic climate a proposed retail development such as Friarsgate needs very careful consideration and planning. That, to date, there has not been sufficient pre-let floor space to justify proceeding with the project underlines this issue.

    Lichfield, whilst technically a city is more like a country town and it is important to preserve this character. A “destination” shopping precinct with major national and international stores would put this at risk. The appropriate mix in any proposed development needs careful consideration, with the preservation of the character of Lichfield at its heart.

    Whilst leisure facilities may be part of that mix, with cinema complexes in many of the surrounding areas and easily accessible, is a full blown cinema likely to be viable? A possible viable alternative in this respect is to develop the under-used facility of the Studio Theatre at the Garrick as an occasional but regular arts cinema. A development such as this could make the Garrick more financially viable as well as providing a community facility that would not be in direct competition with the cinema complexes of surrounding areas.

  4. “Garrick as an occasional but regular arts cinema” While I do agree with the idea in principal – we are talking about “council” it was tried by them. Look around and tell me anything that stands out to show for the many £Millions they have spent in recent decades. The less they are involved the less tax we have to pay. I do know about recent changes but I doubt that will stop them wasting our cash.
    What about one of the pubs with a large screen putting on films – no need for reels of film these days it can come down the pipe – as a lot of house holds know.

  5. friarsgate is dead, and the council knows it. about time it’s dropped so our local businesses can get some sense of certainty about the local economy instead of this constant limbo

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