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Lichfield Library move will safeguard St Mary’s in the Market Square, says Lichfield District Council leader

The leader of Lichfield District Council says proposals to transfer Lichfield Library will safeguard St Mary’s in the Market Square.

St Mary's in the Market Square. Pic: Bs0u10e01

St Mary’s in the Market Square. Pic: Bs0u10e01

Staffordshire County Council has drawn up plans to move the facility and convert the current site at The Friary into residential properties.

A petition opposing the plans has gathered more than 5,000 signatures, with campaigners saying the building – which was gifted to the people of the city before the covenant was dropped in 1995 – should not be sold to private developers.

But Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, told a meeting of the local authority earlier this week that the move made sense.

“It is a good move to ensure the sustainability of St Mary’s and bring the library into the city centre, an area where we are keen to promote and boost in future,” he said.

His comments came after a formal question from Cllr Sue Woodward.

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

The leader of the Labour opposition group said that while the Save Lichfield Library campaign may have been “misnamed”, some of the issues raised did need to be considered.

“I agree that the move would improve the viability of St Mary’s – an important site in Lichfield city centre,” Cllr Woodward said. “But there is an issue over the public benefit of this building in the future.

“This public benefit is not met by selling the site for any purpose.

“If The Friary were to be used for public benefit then it may appease some of the complaints.”

Cllr Woodward has previously said that if the library is moved, the current site should be used for extra care housing for older or disabled people.

But Cllr Ian Parry, deputy leader of Stadffordshire County Council, said the conversion needed to achieve this would be “very difficult”.

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  1. Darryl

    21st April, 2016 at 10:10 am

    So, is St Mary’s under threat now?

  2. Ken

    21st April, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Tory councillor supports Tory council plan. No surprise there.

    Shame Cllr Wilcox wasn’t asked whether or not he supports the principle behind the Save Lichfield Library petition ie. that there should be a consultation on the future of the library and the Friary. Now THAT would be interesting.

  3. Rebecca Sadler

    21st April, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Never mind what Cllr Wilcox thinks – we want a consultation, give the people of Lichfield a say in the future of their building!

  4. Frustrated

    21st April, 2016 at 11:36 am

    What do councillors do?
    Councillors are elected to the local council to represent their local community, so they must either live or work in the area. Becoming a councillor is both a rewarding and privileged form of public service. You will be in a position to make a difference to the quality of other people’s daily lives and prospects.

    A little more representing and listening, a little less ruling over us, please.

  5. Alan White

    21st April, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Perhaps it would help to highlight a few points. First, there was a consultation on the future of the libraries in Staffordshire:

    The consultation process was well publicised at the time it took place.

    Second, any change of use for the building will require planning permission. Planning applications have to be consulted upon, and those with a high level of public interest are heard, in public, by Lichfield District Council planning committee. There are opportunities for interested parties to make their views known, either in writing or in person.

    Third, it is possible for communities or groups who are interested in taking on assets in public ownership using a scheme known as Community Asset Transfer So for those groups who are concerned about the future of this public building, I think there are opportunities to ‘have a go’.

    Fourth, it is worth thinking about the future shape of the City once the Friarsgate scheme is in place. Once Friarsgate is open, I would expect the ‘heart’ of the City to move up Bakers Lane to the new shopping centre. Trying to retain the vibrancy around Market Square will be really important to the feel of the City. I think creating a new ‘destination’ using St Mary’s will really help.

  6. Frustrated

    21st April, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Strange, I didn’t see closing the library, in any election literature.

    Always, best to do the painful things now, the electorate are so stupid, they will forget, all the bad things, when they get to vote again.

  7. Dinsmore

    21st April, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    It would be helpful if Councillor White could provide a link to the part of the previous consultation where they asked for people’s views on moving the library and selling the Friary. I can’t seem to find it.

  8. Crispy

    21st April, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    So Staffordshire County Council has drawn up plans to move the library. Superb! That means if this goes ahead, all sale proceeds go to SCC and not LDC! This smacks of, SCC needs cash so is going to raid the most affluent area in Staffordshire! Huge con! SCC and LDC need an enema, if this is alowed to happen!!!!??

  9. AgitatorofPeople

    22nd April, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Regardless of what is inside St Marys, realistically what would happen to that building, owned by the church which they are letting fall into disrepair, and we the tax payer should pay for it? They are presently asking for £millions to fix up a library in the Cathedral, the government has just gave them £800,000 pounds to spend on lighting.
    We the people of Lichfield are having our public building and heritage flogged off to support a church that does not want to spend money looking after its own property, yet is quite happy to grab it from any other source regardless of impact. They could sell the Church to a developer and “safeguard” it.
    We need a thorough public consultation on this issue, not just a couple of councillors views on what constitutes what is best use of the Friary building.

  10. Mat

    22nd April, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Its really quite galling to hear councillors speaking as if this is good for the library. Get real and start being honest, you want to swell your coffers and most of you are aping your national party in a sell, sell asset strip of this country. Don’t even pretend that this is about what’s best for the library. Its better in the centre? Why? At present it is situated in a place with parking and next t a bus stop. The distance from the centre is not the issue. Its our library and you should consult us fully before you sell it off in more smash and grab politics.

  11. Thornton

    22nd April, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Just to give some balance to the comments here, i say sell it and make as much money as possible from it. This is a great way in which the council are acting ‘more corporate’ just like they wanted. Well done to them for making this decision and realising that hard decision have to be made sometimes and some things just don’t work when they’re free.

  12. Mat

    23rd April, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Dear Thornton, Free? It isn’t free. The public pay for it in taxation just like health, education, fire service, armed services and judiciary.

  13. Mat

    23rd April, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Dear Alan White, sorry I don’t follow the logic. Why will the market square lose vibrancy when a new development is made? It might even force landlords to lower rents, thus enabling struggling business to survive for longer. Furthermore, this is about the council not wanting to maintain a public building and therefore handing it over to the private sector, both in terms of the Friary building and the proposal for the library whose new landlord will be the Church of England. With regards to your assertion that the public were kept informed, well the 5500 names and counting on the petition would disagree with you.

  14. Frustrated

    23rd April, 2016 at 10:57 am

    You can only sell things once.

    Seems like Lichfield Leisure Centre, next for the chop.

    Bet chopper Wilcox will be looking at Beacon park soon. All that lovely land, costing the council money, could be a nice housing estate.

  15. Walker

    23rd April, 2016 at 11:22 am

    While I think the campaigners have actually gone OTT with their name, I do worry about councillor White’s attempt to justify the plan. Don’t claim a consultation about libraries has a direct correlation to this issue when it clearly doesn’t. This just insults the intelligence of the commoners you’re meant to represent. I’d much rather some upfront honesty (we need to raise money, the old building is falling down etc) rather than trying to dress it up as being done for our benefit and then trying to shoehorn the reasoning into an existing consultation exercise.

    I do think the campaign is a fruitless one, mind. History teaches us that consultation means justifying rather than genuinely open debate. It also teaches us that councillors will do what they want ultimately, hence the fact Streethay got a massive new housing development approved at the same time as one in Alrewas got rejected, despite a planning officer saying there was no reason for rejection, thus leaving the council at risk of a huge bill if an appeal saw the vote overturned. I’ll let you guess which housing development is on the same road as the home of a current serving Conservative councillor.

  16. Mat

    23rd April, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Well only time will tell if we have gone OTT with our name, but then again Campaign for a Full and Comprehensive Consultation for the Use of the Friary Building as a Library, is some what of a mouth full to call out when you are on the streets. With regards a fruitless campaign, we are promoting democracy by holding our representatives to account. We are being proactive and gaining a huge amount of support along the way. So guilty as charged for highlighting a situation that should not be allowed to pass unnoticed.

  17. Thornton

    23rd April, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Let it pass, i personally would love to see the old Friary building put to good use as apartments. The building is fantastic and deserves to be used for good rather than fall into ruin.

    I don’t see why some people are getting so worked up about this. If they want something to care about then care about the Feria building on Bore Street.

  18. Mat

    24th April, 2016 at 7:58 am

    I think some people need to visit the library more because they have problems with their reading.

  19. AgitatorofPeople

    24th April, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    David Wallington of the Guild of St Marys wrote a letter into the Lichfield Mercury making a case that moving the Library and funding the repair of St Marys through the sale of the Friary building is in the best interest of Lichfield.
    However if you go into St Marys and ask to see the plans for their proposal you are met with a blank, they have no plans to show.
    Why should we even consider or entertain such a venture by St Marys and Lichfield Diocese if they are not willing to publicly show any proposal they are entering into with Staffordshire County Council and Lichfield District Council, this is a major spend of public money and a move of a City library asset that is protected under law.
    As usual, we keep on been told that this is for the best by SCC, LDC and now the Guild of St Marys, but they are not giving the public any evidence based information to base any informed choice.
    As such when the public consultation comes, it should be proposed that it is Chaired in St Marys in the square, where the councils and the church can offer their side of the debate with the people of Lichfield.