A Liberal Democrat councillor says urgent action is needed to ensure the land earmarked for Friarsgate does not lie derelict for years.
The long-awaited city centre redevelopment scheme collapsed last week after the Cabinet at Lichfield District Council voted against footing a £49million bill to ensure it went ahead after private funding failed to materialise.
The demise of the decade-long project has left question marks over land that had already been cleared to make way for Friarsgate, which would have included new retail units, homes and a cinema.
But Lib Dem councillor Paul Ray insists the council cannot let the land blot the city’s landscape for too long.
Cllr Ray said: “We are now in a total mess and there are serious questions for Cllr Mike Wilcox and the Conservative administration of Lichfield District Council to answer.
“They have to explain how they could let this development progress so far and incur so much cost -including for the demolition of the Kennings Garage site – without the funding being in place for the whole development.
“And more importantly we need an urgent new plan for this site.
“We now have a site in the centre of Lichfield which is in a dreadful and dilapidated state. I am really concerned that it does not remain for years to come an eyesore and just gets into a worse and worse state – urgent action is needed now.”
The demise of Friarsgate comes after sources revealed to LichfieldLive that although the Cabinet had initially sought to back the funding plan, the leadership group opted to vote against the scheme after the wider Conservative group indicated they would not be willing to support the development if it went to a full vote at council.
That led to the resignation of half of the local authority’s Cabinet, including Cllr Iain Eadie who said he believed the council should have stumped up the cash.
But Cllr Ray said he was pleased the money had not been supplied from the public purse.
“It is sad that this project to deliver improved facilities for our district has fallen over, but I’m not surprised and the decision of the council to not borrow £49million to fund it is right.
“The finances just did not stack up. The £49million debt would jeopardise the financial stability of the council and so negatively impact on the residents of Lichfield and Burntwood in the future.”
Only around £6million had been secured for the Friarsgate development, with the majority coming via local enterprise partnerships.
And Cllr Ray believes the council needs to move quick to ensure what little funding has been found is used to support an alternative redevelopment proposal.
“Cllr Wilcox needs to get round the table with these LEPs to ensure that this funding is secured for a new plan for our district,” he said.
“The Friarsgate site musn’t be mothballed for years and years. It has to be developed in particular with improved leisure facilities.
“The Conservatives now need to put together an urgent plan to get us out of this mess.”