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Leader of Lichfield District Council blames “challenging market” for Friarsgate delays

The leader of Lichfield District Council has blamed a “challenging retail and funding market” for delays to the Friarsgate redevelopment.

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

The long-awaited city centre scheme has so far failed to materialise, with the majority of recent discussions about the project held behind closed doors.

But Cllr Mike Wilcox has moved to allay any fears the retail, leisure and residential project was in jeopardy.

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

“We have achieved a number of key Friarsgate project milestones,” he said.

“We are now working in partnership with U+I to assemble the final piece of the jigsaw, which is the funding to deliver the scheme, despite facing a challenging financial and retail market.”

Concerns over the progress of the redevelopment had been raised in a report last summer where the council admitted it was disappointed by the progress so far.

However, that document had anticipated work would begin by now.

“There are signs that the funding market is becoming more stable, enabling a start on site in 2017,” the report, which was published last June, said.

However, progress on the Friarsgate scheme has been slow since. Work has taken place to clear parts of the site, including the former Tempest Ford garage, while bore holes were drilled in February ahead of plans to start building work.

The redevelopment is expected to bring between eight and ten food and drink establishments and approximately 20 shops, with 82 apartments and 11 townhouses to the city centre.

An operator for the proposed multi-screen cinema on the site was confirmed in 2016, with Cllr Wilcox predicting in 2015 that the announcement would be “a game-changer” and lead to an acceleration in the pace of the Friarsgate scheme.

Speaking to LichfieldLive in 2015, he said: “We want the city to be a destination incorporating a leisure time, retail spend as well as eating and spending time visiting the area – that’s what we are trying to create through Friarsgate.”

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  1. Flossy

    29th March, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    One wonders when planning permission expires?

  2. Steve

    29th March, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    “the final piece of the jigsaw, which is the funding”

    So they don’t have the money to complete the project. Good job it’s not something important.

    It will become one giant housing development, with a couple of shops.

    This has been the developers plans all the time. The council have been to stupid to realise it.

  3. Rob

    29th March, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    The whole saga has been a ‘challenge’ since it was conceived last century

  4. Louis Turfrey

    29th March, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    I had heard that the developers needed to start the project, otherwise they would have lost the option. So the old Ford dealership was knocked down, but they did this knowing there was no money to progress further.

  5. Chris Philips

    29th March, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Absolutely need to keep this on track. Lichfield will benefit hugely from a commercial aspect and if done with care will enhance our beautiful city

  6. Lets givit a Spin

    29th March, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Steve is correct this is just a wheeze to get housing on the site. The renewed plans removed shops to create new housing .. watch over coming months as this becomes nothing more than a major housing development . Next the council will be wanting to sell its own building for housing and relocate ! Nobody saw that coming ….

  7. Kieran Alford

    29th March, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    First of all I agree the area of Birmingham Road earmarked for Friarsgate redevelopment is an absolute eyesore that urgently needs an upgrade especially now the Police Station has been vacated due to relocation. On the other hand I can’t help thinking both the designs and overall size of the proposed Friarsgate plans are too far out of Lichfield’s depth.

  8. Concerned Citizen

    29th March, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    The funding is not in place? This Council have been taken for a ride by the developers. It shows how out of touch our elderly councillors really are. I trust the Tory Party hierarchy are reviewing who represents its views and values in the area as both the MP and the Council Leader are sadly lacking in the skills necessary to do their jobs. Roll on the next elections and maybe we can remove these muppets.

  9. Steve

    29th March, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    The Friarsgate fiasco and the issues with the banks show how much power councillors think they have and how little they actually have.

    Banks, developers, shops, restaurants….. they only care about profits and shareholders. The council has been taken for a ride on this development. The developers have now made it a mess and the council will have to try and find some way out of this. It will be throw money at the project and let the developers do what they want. Then make it into a housing estate.

    If an idiot like myself could see what the developers had planned. Isn’t it a shame our esteemed councillors could not see it?

    Steve 26th June, 2017 at 3:04 pm
    The developers plans are running perfectly.
    Kill all local businesses, say retail development isn’t suitable. Then build a massive overpriced housing development.

    But then again, Fab has to tell the leader of the council, the local roads are congested and there are no parking spaces.

    This is the same with Barclays in Burntwood. They do not care about the local community, only profits. No matter how much councillors protest. Barclays answer to shareholders. Does it stink for the local community. Totally.

    All developers use the buzzwords that tick all the council boxes. Community, jobs, integration….. all they want are profits.

  10. Jules

    30th March, 2018 at 5:09 am

    Friarsgate has been a joke from the start. Some councillors will have started and finished their careers in the time this b.s. project has been on the cards. Just waffle on, from the original interior destruction of st Mary’s church, market square paving, on and off closure of Lichfield Police station, a bridge that gets more hits than twitter, cross-keys multi storey car park fiasco, . . . . and there is plenty more.
    Barclays bank at Burntwood has only 170 users, yet the roads of tens of thousands of users there and in lichfield are a mess. All we hear from a comfy councillor from Lichfield is about the bank decision. Get your priorities right or don’t bother to waste our valuable time when a company makes a decision. Action the public issues that really matter. If the users give up on the roads, pavements, and lack of free car parks your demands regarding a bank closure become quite mute.

  11. Roy Appleby

    31st March, 2018 at 8:14 am

    That’s the trouble Chris it won’t be. Our once beautiful city is being ruined. Or to be precise has been ruined by LDC/SCC.

  12. Adam

    31st March, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    More meaningless soundbites. Other town centres have managed to conceive, plan and develop similar schemes in less than half the time this fiasco has taken. The City centre is being ruined by oversize apartment blocks while our green and pleasant surroundings are being filled with identikit shoeboxes. 17% of the electorate bothered to vote in the recent referendum on the Local Plan; staggering.

  13. Darryl

    1st April, 2018 at 9:01 am

    For me the lack of transparency is the issue. It is an affront to democracy to hold meetings about the development of our town centre behind closed doors.

    Mike Wilcox should resign immediately.

  14. Worried Lichfield lady

    1st April, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Haven’t they got millions from the Birmingham mayor to support this?

    I worry they will put more taxpayers money into this to save face

  15. Concerned Citizen

    1st April, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    I agree with your comment about Mike Wilcox, Darryl. He is a poor leader. He fails to connect with the electorate, he has masterminded the fiasco known as Friarsgate, he has ruined the city centre, he is ruining the rest of the city with blind expansion of housing estates without due concern for infrastructure, schools, doctors surgeries and so on. In fact, what has Mike Wilcox and his cronies done for this city? At this late stage, how can you identify funding issues with a project which has been planned for years ? If I wish to buy or build a house, one of the first matters to consider is the budget. This council is full of clowns and we need to remove them from office. Let’s have more transparency in future please, what do you say Leader Wilcox?

  16. Rob

    2nd April, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Wilcox is a bank manager at HSBC in Dudley so he should know all about leadership, funding and connecting with people …… Or not as the case is !

  17. Nodge

    3rd April, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Vote Tory, get chaos. Lichfield never changes.