A report has revealed Lichfield District Council could need to fork out as much as £49million to ensure the Friarsgate redevelopment goes ahead.
The long-awaited scheme was discussed at an overview and scrutiny meeting last night, with the public and media excluded from the section where the possible funding of the city centre redevelopment was debated.
But the local authority is looking into the prospect of paying for the project from its own coffers after private finance was not forthcoming – although it has so far remained silent on the potential cost of such a move.
However, a report from a meeting of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) in March revealed that only £6million of the estimated £55million cost of Friarsgate had so far been secured.
And with no sign of new private money on the table, the council could be left to foot the £49million bill itself if councillors back the controversial move to fund it in house.
The document from the programme delivery board of the GBSLEP – which has pledged £2.4million of the money found so far – also raised a number of concerns over the lack of progress on the project.
Among the items noted were:
- A query over whether a proposed June 30 start date was realistic – and if it wasn’t why Lichfield District Council was still reporting it.
- Concern over the continued revising of milestones on the project.
- £49million of the £54million total project funding remaining unsecured.
The report also outlined that the council would need to report back in July to assess whether it had met “key” milestones.
The company add that the project “has been provisionally awarded a grant of £2.66million from Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, with further grant funding of £2.4m from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership”.
But despite the latest apparent financial about-turn from the council, the redevelopment scheme has a history dating back more than a decade.
An original planning application for the scheme was approved in 2006, with an amendment then made in 2011 which saw a minor reduction in the scale of the scheme.
But the latest planning application for the project was approved in 2016 – with a reduction of 9,215 square metres in terms of the the overall development from the original 2006 plans to the ones submitted in 2015. However, the residential portion of the scheme has jumped from a figure of 3,869 square metres to 7,564 square metres.
Lichfield District Council has been asked to comment on the potential cost of funding Friarsgate.