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Green Party says it is “staggered” by news Lichfield District Council could spend £49million to fund Friarsgate

The local branch of the Green Party says it is “staggered” by Lichfield District Council’s plan to stump up £49million to ensure the Friarsgate development goes ahead.

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

The long-awaited development has been delayed due to issues with securing private finance.

But now Lichfield District Council is exploring proposals to fund the project itself – which LichfieldLive yesterday revealed could see a bill of around £49million.

The Green Party branch in Lichfield and Burntwood said the use of tax payer cash to pay for Friarsgate should not even be considered at a time when locals are feeling the pinch.

“Residents across Lichfield and Burntwood are at the sharp end of ever-deepening cuts to public services,” said the party’s spokesman Simon Partridge. “They’re being asked to pay more and more for less and less – this year it’s the brown bin tax, next year who knows?

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

“Yet the council are somehow going to find the money to finance a shopping centre that private investors won’t come within a mile of.

“It’s an act of sheer financial recklessness.”

The Green Party has also criticised Lichfield District Council’s use of exemption rules to ensure discussions around Friarsgate have been held behind closed doors.

Mr Partridge added: “When you add the complete secrecy surrounding the whole project, then you have a very troubling situation indeed.

“Just what is being concealed behind the wall of so-called ‘commercial sensitivity’?

“The people of Lichfield and Burntwood deserve better – they deserve to know the facts before this goes any further.”

The leader of Lichfield District Council, Cllr Mike Wilcox, has insisted no final decision has been made.

“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.”

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4 Comments

  1. AgitatorofPeople

    4th June, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    The U+I 2018 Financial report makes for interesting reading, they report a record £68 Million in development and trading gains, and are spouting forth about their projects in Brighton, Manchester, Oxfordshire and London, yet the project they have had on their books for the longest doesn’t even rate a mention, infact reading their strategic report, Lichfield only rates a listing in their subsidiary investment companies list “Non of which is expected to give rise to a liability in the company”.
    And our Councillors want to run to them and throw great wads of our cash at them, a company that sees Lichfield as a risk and wont invest themselves, yet are quite happy to sit it out and cash in.
    Who and what was the driver in the demolition of businesses? U+I the developers, get the council into a corner, and then demand more money? is this why meetings have been going on behind closed doors, this should be a transparent transaction, a regeneration project to be proud of, like U+I would lead you to believe for their other projects.
    It appears that Lichfield Council has made a massive mistake, and wont admit it, and are willing to blow our money away to try and fix it.
    Who keeps voting these people in?

  2. Nick S (@NikolaiSzabados)

    5th June, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Seems a bit of a click bait headline, as the council don’t have great wads of cash, so they won’t be throwing any money at them.

    However, the council sitting in private and not informing us in detail about their proposals does not bode well. There does have to be an admission that the scheme as proposed currently, is not going to work. Something more imaginative in consultation with Lichfield folk, would be a possible way forward. This will probably require a local developer acquiring the site from U+I.

    A practical approach is what we need; just mud slinging at our elected officials is not going to get us anywhere, although they should perhaps admit that they don’t have the commercial acumen to see this through.

  3. Ross

    5th June, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for your comment – although I’m going to differ on your view of this being clickbait. Clickbait would be ‘You won’t believe what Lichfield District Council are planning to spend your money on’ or ‘7 things you didn’t know about Friarsgate’.

    In terms of the journalistic process, there are obviously things we as a reporting team are aware of that are not in the published story. We first knew about these plans a month or two ago, but we’ve held off publishing until we’ve had it verified by other reliable sources. Once this happened, we published it and gave Lichfield District Council the chance to clarify or refute the detail; something they’ve not done to date, so read into that what you will. The question of the council not being able to source the money on this story and the other one you commented on are actually incorrect. It’s not always about general reserves being used. We know some of the detail, but will not necessarily be publishing at this stage as we have a duty to those who have provided the information we know (that the council clearly doesn’t want us to) and are continuing to dig on it.

  4. FiveSpiresLive (@FiveSpiresLive)

    5th June, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Sounds like an application to the Public Works Loan Board with preferential interest rates…