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Community group calls on Lichfield District Council to come clean on full cost of Friarsgate failure

A community group has demanded Lichfield District Council comes clean about the full cost of the failure to build Friarsgate.

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

The long-awaited redevelopment project finally bit the dust when developers and the local authority admitted they could not find the £49million funding to prop up just £6million of funding that had been sourced in the past decade.

The news is likely to mean the prospect of large chunks of land in the city centre remaining empty for a significant period of time while the council decides what to do with it in the wake of the failure to bring Friarsgate to fruition.

But the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association said the council had missed opportunities to heed warnings about the potential pitfalls of the project.

“At last Lichfield District Council have had to accept that Friarsgate was the wrong development in the wrong place at the wrong time,” a spokesperson for the group said.

“If the council had listened and learned at the public consultations this would never have occurred.

“They now need to tell us how much it’s cost taxpayers in Lichfield?”

LichfieldLive has asked the council to outline the total bill for Friarsgate so far and any future liabilities.

But sources have said the bill could be significant with land purchases, officer time and the liability for some elements linked to the proposed scheme now that it will not go ahead.

The fallout from the Friarsgate scheme collapsing has already seen three members of Lichfield District Council’s Cabinet to resign, while Labour has called for Cllr Mike Wilcox – leader of the council – to step down.

Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

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

“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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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

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