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Lichfield District Council leader says he shares the disappointment of residents after long-awaited Friarsgate redevelopment bites the dust

The leader of Lichfield District Council says he shares the disappointment of residents after the Friarsgate project was finally killed off.

An artist's impression of the Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

Despite being in the making for more than a decade, the long-awaited city centre redevelopment project finally bit the dust at a private meeting of councillors last night.

The final nail in the Friarsgate coffin was delivered when councillors refused to stump up the £49million required to bring the scheme to fruition after private funding did not materialise – although Lichfield District Council has admitted the final bill for the aborted development will be almost £7million.

Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of the council, said he shared the frustration of residents, but insisted the local authority could not risk footing the bill.

“Although this is disappointing news, we are confident the Birmingham Road site still offers great potential for a refreshed mixed-use development that better meets the needs of our growing community and the changing face of today’s high streets,” he said.

“We know this decision will disappoint many people who were looking forward to the benefits Friarsgate would have brought in terms of leisure and retail opportunities.

“While we would also welcome these benefits, as a council we need to ensure we are not creating a debt we cannot repay and which could negatively impact vital council services in the future. As such, if a funder is not secured by June 30, the development will not continue in its current form.”

Councillors heard that the taking out a loan of almost £50million would have been likely to contravene the local authority’s procurement rules given the returns would be “very low”.

Cllr Wilcox added: “We now have an exciting opportunity to consider how this prime city centre site can be regenerated to create an invigorated and sustainable city centre.

“We look forward to involving local people and local businesses in these discussions.”

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  1. Colin Ball

    27th June, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Sharing our disappointment just isn’t good enough for me nor, I suspect, the majority of Lichfield residents. I think that Mike Wilcox and the remainder of his Cabinet should all do the decent thing and resign now, so that someone else who knows something about large scale development and the need to have a Plan B in place right from the start can take over. Otherwise, if it’s still left to Mike Wilcox, I’m sure he will be sharing our disappointment in another 10/12 years’ time!

    Colin Ball – Labour Party Candidate in the Curborough By-Election for the City and District Councils.

  2. Concerned Citizen

    28th June, 2018 at 7:15 am

    It is such a shame, Mike has worked so hard to make Friarsgate happen. He has put his heart and soul into making Lichfield a premier shopping experience for residents and visitors.

    All I can say is that being a banker, Mike should have ensured the funding was in place at the start of the project. What a dereliction of duty to have ignored this basic element. Also, the Kim Il- Wilcox of Lichfield needs to reflect on his part in this fiasco, consider the view that having secret meetings of his Council and Cabinet, barring a full debate amongst Councillers have in the eyes of the electorate. Resign now as Leader!

    Vote this incompetent and his cronies out of office asap.

    Well done LIchfield Live for exposing this mess.

  3. Philip Allso

    28th June, 2018 at 8:03 am

    It’s hard not being cynical isn’t it? When you want him to speak he disappears behind closed doors. When he does speak you wish he was still there! This issue is too big to be just ‘disappointed’. We are disappointed to the tune of at least £7,000,000 and parts of the city that looks like a bomb site. Not to mention wrecked businesses and doubtful future prospects. Not to mention the reduced services and sky high rates this will cause. No Mr. Wilcox, we need a new sheet of paper without you (and most of your cohorts) names on it. We don’t want regeneration taking another decade, or some Mickey Mouse scheme offering little or nothing to residents. Thanks, but no thanks. It’s time for you to go.

  4. AnnS

    28th June, 2018 at 11:26 am

    “We look forward to involving local people and local businesses in these discussions.”
    The arrogance of the man and the other blues thinking they are entitled to a second shot at this.
    Well sir, it might comes as a surprise but we don’t look forward to you or the other cronies being involved.