One of three Cabinet members who stood down at Lichfield District Council said a difference of opinion with the local authority’s leader over Friarsgate had left him with no alternative but to resign. Cllr Iain Eadie, Cllr Doug Pullen and Cllr Andy Smith all stepped down in the aftermath of a move to reject plans to foot the £49million bill for the long-awaited scheme. The decision by Cabinet not to back the plan – which LichfieldLive understands was sparked by indications the wider Conservative group would not support it at full council – means the project will now be axed completely.
Iain Eadie
But Cllr Eadie said he believed the council should have backed the plan – and said a difference of opinion with Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of the council, meant he could not continue to serve in the Cabinet. “It is my personal view that the council should do all it can to deliver regeneration for Lichfield and the wider district,” he told LichfieldLive “I understood this to be the strategic vision of the council leader and one I was happy to support. “I believe all of us want to see regeneration and it has been the prospect of the council having to fund the Friarsgate scheme where we have seen different points of view emerge amongst elected members. “Following this week’s Cabinet meeting and the recommendations that mean it is likely no regeneration will go ahead for the foreseeable future, I indicated to Cllr Wilcox that I still strongly believed the council should have brought Friarsgate to fruition. “As this placed me at odds with the decision of Cabinet I understood it would be appropriate for me to step down, given the significance of this issue.”
An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development
The confirmation Friarsgate is now not going ahead will be a major blow to Lichfield District Council’s proposals for regeneration of the city centre, with the local authority now forced to go back to the drawing board after a decade of planning and preparation. But Cllr Eadie has warned residents it could be “a significant period of time” before any new scheme even comes close to being put on the table. He said: “Unless members vote against the recommendation from Cabinet at the meeting of full council on June 26, it will be necessary to think again. “There will be many steps and processes involved in this and it may well take a significant period of time to deliver something in place of the much-wanted cinema, improved retail offering and additional choice of restaurants, as well as the additional housing, new car park, bus station and other aspects that were linked to the Friarsgate scheme.” Cllr Wilcox has been urged to resign by members of the Labour opposition group in the wake of the decision by half of his Cabinet to resign. Cllr Eadie said he felt the move not to back Friarsgate meant he had no option but to quit the Cabinet. “I know that Cllr Wilcox cares passionately about our district and council and that he works tirelessly for it,” he said. “Unfortunately my judgement as to how we should move our district forward differs to Cllr Wilcox and for that reason again it was appropriate for me to step down from Cabinet, when I felt I could no longer influence change.”


Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

7 replies on “Cabinet member who resigned says Lichfield District Council should have backed Friarsgate development”

  1. This grandiose scheme was a vanity product from the start. Lichfield lacks even basic facilities compaired to similar sized places and should be concentrating on basics. Like many recent building projects the main beneficiaries seem to be the developers. The Lichfield District Council has operated under a cloud of doubt for some time. We need to move on. We also need democrats not autocrats!

  2. I’m a bit confused. So did the three councillors resign because they did want Friarsgate to go ahead and Cllr Wilcox didn’t? That’s the opposite of the assumption being made elsewhere. Can anyone enlighten me?

  3. @Asellus – we understand that the councillors each resigned for different reasons in the argument on the funding, however they all relate to concerns over how Friarsgate has been handled. They are being careful what is said due to confidentiality rules (although the leader’s statement yesterday seemed to ride over any confidentiality concerns they’d hidden Friarsgate behind for months).

    Our sources tell us Cabinet had initially been instructed to back spending £49m, but essentially backtracked when the wider Conservative group indicated it would not go with the decision. Insiders have told us the resignations – regardless of being for or against Friarsgate – relate to concerns that the situation had been allowed to go so badly wrong that a decade of work had been allowed to fail so spectacularly and so close to the June 30 deadline.

  4. Thanks, Ross for shedding light into the murky corners. I would like to say that it’s difficult to see how Cllr Wilcox can cling onto the leadership, but sadly it’s all too easy to believe that he will. I wonder if we will ever find out how much this shambles has cost over the years. Presumably the building site will be left as is to greet us as we enter the city. Would it be too expensive, I wonder , to just grass it over and have it as a green space until a permanent use is found?

  5. It’s like with any political grouping. As we understand it, there was a strong push by the leadership to back it. But with the backbench looking likely to vote against, it would have been pointless voting for it at Cabinet, hence the decision to vote against it and then hope a little spin would make it look like there was nothing to see here.

  6. @laurence. I doubt there will be time for any grass to grow.

    It will be snapped up by a developer, for next to nothing. Then it will become a housing estate.

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