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Claim Lichfield District Council leader has “lost all of his credibility” after collapse of Friarsgate scheme

The leader of Lichfield District Council has “lost all of his credibility” in the fall-out from the failure of Friarsgate, according to the leader of the opposition group.

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox and developers U+I have now admitted defeat in their decade-long plan to redevelop part of the city centre.

Private finance failed to materialise and a last-ditch plan to fund the project by footing a £49million bill from the public purse also failed.

The news led to the local authority finally disclosing some details about the discussions, having previously heard all debates around the plans behind closed doors.

But the decision by Cllr Mike Wilcox has been criticised by his Labour counterpart Cllr Sue Woodward, who questioned why full details of the plan had not been disclosed now the leader has broken cover from behind a wall of silence.

“Cllr Wilcox has now blown confidentiality out of the water,” she said. “So why not now release all papers?

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

“Here’s a leader who’s pinned all his hopes, his council’s resources and his manifestos on delivery of Friarsgate, irrespective of other needs across the district. Now, at the 11th hour and 59th minute, he’s gone against all of the legal arguments he was making as to why the public should not be allowed to see the decision or the detail behind it, something I constantly challenged.

“No wonder he’s lost 50% of his Cabinet – he’s lost all of his credibility too.”

According to Cllr Woodward, Cllr Wilcox’s decision may also pose issues in the due process the council needs to undertake to formally reject the Friarsgate funding proposal later this month.

“It compromises the decision of full council on June 26 and, while I agree with and – dare I say? – led the fight on the decision of course, I’m old-fashioned enough to believe in proper process.”

Cllr Wilcox has yet to respond to requests for interview by LichfieldLive, but in a statement about the collapse of the Friarsgate project released by the council, he said Brexit and the credit crunch had impacted on the viability of the development.

“When the Friarsgate development was first conceived the market was very different,” Cllr Wilcox said.

“We know the local community has wanted us to deliver the scheme and we’ve been working hard to bring it forward. Prior to the credit crunch and Brexit all signs were positive

“On May 30 members of our overview and scrutiny committees considered a proposal for the council to fund Friarsgate, which is an approach some other councils have taken to kick-start similar projects.

“Committee members debated the proposal, and recommended that the council should not fund the scheme. On June 12, Cabinet members subsequently voted that the council should not fund the scheme. The final decision will be made by full council which will meet on June 26.”

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  1. Graham Broadbent

    14th June, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    The developers are disappointed considering they didn’t get any funding for the development. They will be paid out of the council’s money if there’s any left that is.
    The only people that are disappointed are the people of Lichfield who have had to put up with this shambles of a council in the decade it had taken it to get this far
    That is precisely no where

  2. John Cahoon

    16th June, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    What a pity the development has failed. I suppose the site will remain as it is now for another 10 years. I’d like to see some trees on there and a green open space. Something good for the environment and a great place for people to walk through or just sit in amongst the hustle and bustle of city life.