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Community organisations criticise plans for Lichfield District Council to fund Friarsgate development

Plans to fund the redevelopment of Lichfield’s city centre with taxpayer cash have been questioned by local community groups.

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

Lichfield District Council is discussing proposals to pay for the long-awaited Friarsgate scheme after private funding failed to emerge.

The proposal has already drawn criticism from local Labour councillors, but now Lichfield Civic Society has questioned the plan.

A spokesperson for the group said that the absence of progress on Friarsgate was “blighting part of the city” after hoardings were erected around the former Tempest Ford garage site – but has warned propping up the scheme with public money may not be the answer.

“If private sector investors are reluctant to put money into the project, they must consider it a high risk,” they said.

“Why does Lichfield District Council consider it a sound investment for council tax payers if private sector experts think otherwise?”

The Civic Society’s views have been echoed by the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association (BSARA) who have accused the Conservative group controlling Lichfield District Council of clinging on to the project because they are “frightened to admit they got it wrong”.

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

A spokesperson for BSARA said: “For many years we have challenged the viability of the business case for the scheme and whether the funding could be obtained from the private sector.

“We understand that Lichfield District Council are about to discuss – behind closed doors – whether to go it alone with the scheme. There is no doubt that a considerable sum of public money has been expended already on Friarsgate – we believe they should publicly declare what these potential losses amount to.

“But they should beware those who are passionate about the city of Lichfield and will not allow it to be destroyed by politicians on an ego trip and who are frightened to admit that they got it badly wrong.”

Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, said no final decision had been made but said it could be an opportunity for the local authority to “kickstart” the Friarsgate development.

“The majority of the major Friarsgate milestones are now in place, and we are working with U+I to assemble the final piece of the jigsaw, which is the funding to deliver the scheme,” he said.

“As part of this, councillors were informally briefed on the opportunity for the council to fund the scheme at a meeting on May 22.

“This is an approach that has been taken by a number of other councils across the country to successfully kick start major developments.

“No decisions have been made and the opportunity is being explored in greater depth as part of a programme of decision making. The next discussion will take place at a joint meeting of Economic Growth, Environment and Development (Overview & Scrutiny) Committee later this month.”

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  1. Nellygb

    29th May, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    “Why does Lichfield District Council consider it a sound investment for council tax payers if private sector experts think otherwise?”

    Because they have no real world business experience of creating income. They have ideas of grandeur, vanity projects and legacies to consider before they even start thinking about looking at what the local residents want. I have so far seen only one person on this board who thinks it’s a good way of spending council taxpayers money (correct me if I’m wrong), in the words of our beloved member of parliament he was probably a Russian Troll commenting from the safety of Red Square.

    Tomorrows D Day when it’s put to committee so I hope some of those councillors of the blue persuasion are keeping tabs of what the plebs are thinking and put some pressure on our Fuehrer to now bow to the obvious and admit this folly is finally over. Then do the honourable thing and fall on his sword. He is so far detached from reality it’s now time for a change me thinks

  2. Philip Allso

    30th May, 2018 at 11:48 am

    To be fair Nellygb they are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Having let ambition outstreach reality the next move will probably be a bad one because some bridges (e.g.. The Ford bussiness) have already been burned. What to do? What to do? Think deep and hard about the heritage of our great city and develop sustainable ideas that do not follow the failing pattern of the shopping precinct. As for your comments about some of the councillors, well local elections always produce poor turnout so we get what we deserve (sadly).