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Developers “hugely disappointed” as confirmation comes that Friarsgate development will not go ahead

Developers say they are “hugely disappointed” after it was confirmed the Friarsgate scheme in Lichfield will not go ahead.

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the new Friarsgate development

The long-awaited project failed to attract private funding to go ahead and a last-ditch move which would potentially see Lichfield District Council foot the bill has also bitten the dust.

The move means the local authority will now need to go back to the drawing board as the deal with the current developer U+I expires at the end of the month.

Tom Edgerley, development director at U+I, said: “We have been working hard, in partnership with Lichfield District Council, to progress the redevelopment of Friarsgate, which would bring an improved retail offer to Lichfield, boost the city centre and create new jobs.

“The scheme was granted planning consent in 2017 and U+I has spent recent months trying to secure funding. This has proven difficult, as during the lifetime of the project, market conditions have shifted and the retail industry is undergoing fundamental change.

“Despite approaching a number of sources and exploring a prudential solution with the Council, we have not secured funding within the required timeframe set out by the Development Agreement and the scheme will not be progressing further.

“We, like many local people, are hugely disappointed that despite all the hard work to get to this stage, this promising development cannot be delivered.

“Despite the difficult market, we were encouraged that the scheme had already attracted an array of potential tenants and would to thank everyone for their interest in the scheme and Lichfield.”

LichfieldLive understands The decision by Cabinet not to back the funding plan was made following an indication that the wider Conservative group would not support it at full council.

As a result, three members of the six-man Cabinet resigned, with Cllr Doug Pullen saying the current leadership group “cannot credibly continue”.

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, confirmed that Cabinet has voted in favour of not funding the development, but the final decision will be made by full council later this month.

“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.”

Although the money will not be spent, the bill facing the council is likely to be substantial as it counts the cost of a decade long planning process and land acquisition project.

The collapse of Friarsgate is likely to heap pressure on Cllr Wilcox, with the opposition Labour group saying his position had been untenable.

Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the Labour group at the council, said: “In light of the resignations of three Cabinet members – 50% of the council’s executive – I believe that the leader should now consider his own position and stand down,” she said. “You simply cannot lose half of your team and continue as though nothing has happened.

“It is regrettable in some ways as Cllr Wilcox and I have worked well together on a range of issues, as I have with the three now former Cabinet members, but I believe that his position is now untenable.”

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24 Comments

  1. Darryl Godden

    14th June, 2018 at 11:39 am

    He should do the honourable thing and resign. The council is desperately in need of fresh blood and new ideas.

    This type of mismanagement in private business simply wouldn’t be tolerate, in local/central government, there’s a quick apology, which I note we don’t have, and they move on. It’s simply not good enough that public money is treated so flippantly.

  2. wilf

    14th June, 2018 at 11:46 am

    An absolute shambles from start to finish. Poor management, weak governance and a lack of scrutiny has lead to this situation. We really should thank Lichfield Live for exposing this sorry situation before it went any further. After all, would Wilcox have even told us if he hadn’t been smoked out??!?

  3. Nodge

    14th June, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    I bet the former employees and displaced customers of Tempest Ford (RIP) are over the moon. This whole project has been an absolute omnishambles.

  4. Scribbler

    14th June, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    This ranks as the most surprising announcement since my dad told me there is no Father Christmas (spoiler alert for any kids out there).

  5. Exmp

    14th June, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Damn, now I’m feeling a little bad for that small shop unit that use to sell snacks and drinks at the bus station. His sign always catches my eye when stating “I’ve had to close down due to the Friarsgate development”. Sad times.

    Curious to see what the next steps are, regarding development? I would like to see something more added to the area. I still think a cinema would have been pretty cool

  6. Steve

    14th June, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    There is only one play for Mike Wilcox to go now.

    Head of HS2.

  7. Colin Ball

    14th June, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    I agree with all those calling for Mike Wilcox to resign, as Council Leader. It’s not just about Friarsgate, which is bad enough. He has presided over the Council turning something like £25 million in reserves, left by the last Labour administration, to having reserves of next to nothing and having to take funding from what little is left to break even – and that’s on top of putting up the Council Tax by the maxpossible and charging us for our brown bins to boot! Surely, he must see that the time has come to go! It’s just a great pity that the Tories don’t all resign on mass and give Labour a chance to put it right again. At least, the voters in Curborough will get a chance on 5th July, to let the Council know what they think of them!

  8. Kerry Ball

    14th June, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Yes just what Lichfield needed more coffee shops and Restaurants.Total shambles and shame that the old Kennings had to be demolished for nothing.

  9. Kerry Ball

    14th June, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Councils always pleading they lack funds but were willing to use our money to pay for this shambles.

  10. Treemaddog

    14th June, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Lichfield missed the boat when Tamworth worked hard to attract big name investors in the face of the financial crisis and recession. John Lewis, huge new B&Q, huge new Next, leading to many other mid size players following. FREE car parking. Every major car dealership in a small area, a variety of leisure and entertainment offerings, so why would anyone now go to Lichfield pay exorbitant parking charges for a down beat mix of charity and overpriced coffee shops, tired old name shops e.g. Boots and an rather underwhelming undersized Debenhams? No two ways about it Lichfield council has well and truly lost the plot!

  11. Lichfield Local

    14th June, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Excellent news! We do not need this development. Now let’s get back to making Lichfield the unique and beautiful city that it used to be. Small traders and quirky ideas welcome. Think York not Solihull!

  12. Dave Smith

    14th June, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Terrible news, no cinema yet again….wouldn’t be surprised if the houses get built ?….cannot see the council missing out on all that council tax £££
    And to think many years ago we were told the old Kwik Save couldn’t be turned into a cinema again as we wouldn’t need 2 cinemas ?….I count 0 to date ?.
    All our money goes to Tamworth as they have proper shops, cinema & bowling alley etc ?, Lichfield is a dead spot for the young….all we get now is masses of crappy houses and with them the traffic !!!.
    If I won the lottery I would fund this myself !!!

  13. Ann Jelley

    15th June, 2018 at 9:17 am

    Absolute disgrace. I hope the employees of Tempest Ford have all found alternative employment. It would appear there was no need for them to move after all.
    Lichfield is a quaint and beautiful City and should remain so

  14. Anthony Douglas

    15th June, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Friargate is now fantasy. People have lost their jobs. Developers have no money. The council won’t fund it. The leaseholder of Tempest Ford has lost his business. The councillor had no B plan. Why didn’t they get the funds before destroying a business?

  15. U Woodcock

    15th June, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    Commonsense has prevailed.

  16. Rob

    16th June, 2018 at 12:45 am

    Oops, must have taken a wrong turn.
    Looking for Labour Live.
    Any tickets left?
    “Ooh Jeremy Corbyn”.

  17. John Elsmore

    16th June, 2018 at 6:57 am

    Only incompetent idiots would demolish businesses (Tempest Ford), demolish houses, create an eye sore, then say they haven’t any funding in place. Lichfield and Burntwood residents need a public explanation as to how it all went wrong in such a spectacular fashion.
    What do the council have as plan ‘B’ ?

  18. AnnS

    16th June, 2018 at 10:06 am

    @John Elsmore, so cocksure where they that plan A would happen, no one probably thought of a plan B. So now we have an empty Police station, hugh wasteland being hidden behind grey hoardings, a hole where a house once stood, a bus station with no kiosk, a multi-story car park in need of updating, a library that is being relocated in a little church (and just when is this going to happen, I’ve heard rumours that this project is in trouble), the old Regal that could have been turned back into a cinema (didn’t two local lads get planning permission sometime ago) to do something with this building, Oh and a council in disarray. Apart from all this life is honky dory wouldn’t you say.

  19. LetsGiveItASpin

    16th June, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Well said AnnS .. there should be an external audit investigation into what had happened , how much public money was wasted and those involved either cleared of responsibility or be found guilt of misconduct in a public office …..

  20. Louise Fleming

    16th June, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    @AnnS I agree with all your comments – but just to confirm that St Mary’s in the Market Square is on track to open later this year (Autumn) with the library downstairs and a multi use arts and heritage space upstairs. The project is not in trouble and will definitely be happening (I am on the Board). So at least one new project in the City will come to fruition this year!

  21. Concerned Citizen

    16th June, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Yes, Louise, but the original builder went bust and you were lucky to get a replacement who was available. I believe you are marginally behind schedule. Compared to Friarsgate, St Mary’s is a roaring success.
    In the light of the Friarsgate fiasco, the public should question the decision to sell the Library building.

  22. Di Evans

    16th June, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    When half of the Conservative Cabinet members of Lichfield District Council resign and their Leader Mike Wilcox appears to have lost the trust of his group and the wider community, surely it is time for him to consider his future. The controlling group is in total disarray and it is difficult to see how it can get back on track to deliver a fair spread of resources across the whole of the District, rather than concentrating solely on Lichfield City.

  23. Justin Finch (@justin_finch)

    18th June, 2018 at 12:25 am

    This whole situation has become a farce. The council never needed this development in light of the financial crisis faced by retailers……it’s not difficult to understand!
    The only people who should lose their jobs are those on the council who have revealed their complete incompetence. No doubt housing will replace the development #idiots

  24. John Griffiin

    18th June, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    I’m with Lichfield Local on this – stop thinking Tamworth, start thinking York Shambles or Leicester Lanes with affordable housing interpolated. Art, music, history, independent traders, vibrant market……..not rocket science.

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