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Group backs call for rethink on Lichfield’s Friarsgate redevelopment

A Lichfield residents’ group has backed calls for councillors to go back to the drawing board on the Friarsgate redevelopment.

City councillor Ian Jackson has re-opened the debate over the shopping development, suggesting a “radical rethink” was needed on the project.

Now the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association (BSARA) have said a smaller alternative would be more in-keeping with the character of Lichfield.

An artist's impression of the Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

“The current design is dead in the water,” said the group’s spokesman Andre Hefer. “From the outset BSARA has questioned the viability of Friarsgate.

“We have 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.

“A small retail offering alongside leisure and affordable homes would make 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 such as the Bullring.”

Cllr Jackson had called for the council to instead direct their attention on the redevelopment of the Bird Street car park.

However, BSARA have described the suggestion as an “unwelcome distraction” on the wider issue of restructuring the commercial landscape of the city centre.

“A practical Friarsgate design which is economically viable will attract funding,” Mr Hefer added. “That is the lesson from the Friary Outer development.

“Councillor Jackson’s idea of developing the Bird Street car park is an unwelcome distraction which risks covering the same ground that proved unworkable in the past.”

Despite the opposition, Lichfield District Council have rejected calls for a rethink on Friarsgate.

Leader Mike Wilcox said: “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.”

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