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Lichfield’s MP warns councillors they will be blamed if they don’t “step up a notch” to find a solution for Friarsgate land

The city’s MP says fingers will be pointed at Lichfield District Council if it “doesn’t step up a notch” in finding a new solution following the failure to deliver Friarsgate.

An artist's impression of the new Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

The long-awaited city centre redevelopment project bit the dust after more than a decade of planning.

The decision not to progress came after developers failed to source private funding and the council opted not to stump up the money needed to bring the scheme to fruition – although taxpayers have still been left with a £7million bill for work carried out in association with the aborted project.

Michael Fabricant

Michael Fabricant

Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield, said the local authority needed to step up to the plate to find a new solution for the land.

“While the council cannot be blamed for developer U+I’s inability to find commercial funding for the Friarsgate project, it will be the council to blame if it now doesn’t step up a notch to initiate immediate remedial works and a embark on a realistic plan for the future,” he said.

“The council was quite right not to stump up £50million of taxpayers’ money to replace private finance which London-based U+I were unable to raise.

“But the council now immediately needs to tackle the fall out.”

Mr Fabricant suggested a two-stage approach to resolving the Friarsgate problem was needed.

He said: “Firstly, the grey hoardings surrounding the old garage site on the corner of St John Street and Birmingham Road which are opposite the ancient St John’s Hospital and mark the entrance to our historic city, need to be removed – they are an unwelcome eyesore.

“They must come down as quickly as possible and a temporary facility made to enhance the area.

“A grass park with some flowers and benches, for example, would be attractive to visitors and locals alike. Yes, I know that levelling the site and adding turf to a soil foundation costs money and the grass will need to be cut, but something of that nature is preferable to the ugly hoardings that currently confronts visitors.

“Some imagination is needed for a short term fix that would transform the area. The council need to announce these plans with urgency.

“The council then needs to consider the longer term and what they wish to do with all the land they have reacquired for the Friarsgate project.

“A realistic combination of housing with fewer shops and a cinema built in a harmonious style which reflects a cathedral city would be far more in keeping with the concrete block house mentality of U+I’s proposals. I know that councillors are already beginning to think along these lines.”

The leader of Lichfield District Council, Cllr Mike Wilcox, came under pressure following the demise of Friarsgate, but was backed to continue by his own councillors following a leadership challenge.

But Mr Fabricant said the Conservative leadership group needed to prevent the long-term failure of the redevelopment scheme becoming a defining moment for the city.

“If the council acts swiftly in announcing both its short term and longer term plans, the collapse of Friarsgate will not be a calamity,” he said. “Instead it will be the saving of the city from what I feared would be an unattractive development.

“There is now an exciting opportunity to use the building land creatively and with a realistic chance of raising private finance.

“But for all this to happen, both the council – and, equally as importantly, the officers who work for the council – will have to act swiftly and imaginatively and not be chained by self-doubt and caution. I will help in any way I can to ensure that this happens.”

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

19 Comments

  1. Jeremy

    26th July, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Jesus christ…. I can’t believe I’m about to say this but, for once, I actually agree with Fabs comments!!……. Can someone check hell for me, it’s not chilly is it?!

  2. Nick

    26th July, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Michael ‘Teflon’ Fabricant MP

  3. Flossy

    26th July, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Michael is correct. This Council needs a massive laxative applied by the electors at next election. If LDC just sit and “tut tut amongst themselves in private” that is precisely what will happen as sure as each night follows day

  4. nellygb

    26th July, 2018 at 11:39 am

    I’d say some comment is better late then never from our esteemed member (of parliament) but the cynic in me says it has taken him this long to 1) come off twatter and 2) come up with the party line that the (tory) council are in no way at fault.

    No mention of the lies told to Brian Carruthers and how he’s missed the fact that 7m has gone up in smoke I don’t know. Bet he’d have spotted it if the money had been wasted by a council of another political persuasion.

    My only hope is they don’t take him up on his offer of help.

  5. AnnS

    26th July, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Firstly Jeremy, there really is no need to take the Lord’s name in vain. Secondly, Mr Fabricant appears not to condemn his blue pals and has no original thoughts as he is simply echoing all the comments and suggestions that have already been made by others.

  6. Jeremy

    26th July, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    AnnS, I don’t believe in any god, its just a story, so nothing to take in vain. But I do agree with you about his jumping on a public opinion bandwagon without getting his own (tory party) feet wet.

  7. JOHN O

    26th July, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Has he really thought this idea out? On one of the busiest corners in Lichfield with traffic emitting toxic fumes plus next to the bus station. Will he get the council to provide oxygen and face masks?

  8. John O

    26th July, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Has he really thought this idea out? Right next to one of the busiest junctions in Lichfield with traffic emitting toxic fumes plus the bus station next door. Will he get the council to provide face masks and oxygen?

  9. Strumpet

    26th July, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Birmingham Mail Dec 2015: MP Michael Fabricant said “plans for Friarsgate, the largest regeneration in a generation in the city centre, would help cement its growing reputation as Lich Vegas.
    This has been a long, long, project. The local council has been discussing Friarsgate for about 10 years.
    The present scheme is a realistic one and doesn’t clash as much as the original scheme with the architecture of Lichfield as a whole”.

    He certainly cements the growing reputation of Lichfield Tories.

  10. AgitatorofPeople

    26th July, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Make the mess look superficially pretty, firesale to developers to try and claw back £7 million and if you need a hand I will Twitter like Trump.
    Conservative strategy for Lichfield sorted then.

  11. Darryl Godden

    26th July, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Is there a more vacuous term than ‘Lich Vegas,’ the parlance of the man speaks of a vision from another time and completely unsuited to a place like Lichfield.

    In fact, it suits his Brighton far more.

  12. Sue Woodward

    26th July, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I’m not sure that Conservative colleagues at LDC will want to take any lessons from the MP who, 14 minutes into a private Conservative meeting to discuss Friarsgate and its fallout, retweeted an appallingly racist comment. He did subsequently delete it, presumably at the same meeting. Besides, how does he think the Council are going to be able to fund his pie-in-the-sky ideas when he’s voted for all of the austerity cuts which have starved councils of cash? And what about the rest of the constituency? He may not have noticed but Burntwood has had to live with the “unwelcome eyesore” of a site surrounded by hoardings(blue, in our case) for well over 10 years. Not a word about it from the MP.

    He should listen to Cllr Colin Ball’s suggestion of a cross-party working group on this (including public engagement) and not come up with knee-jerk reactions to a political embarrassment.

    Cllr Sue Woodward, Opposition Leader, LDC

  13. The Scribbler

    26th July, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Wow. You know you’re in trouble when you get lectured on your track record on local affairs by Mr Fabricant. But he’s doing his usual trick of being wise well after the event. Plus, thank you Sue for pointing out how much of a priority our MP made this issue when attending a local Conservative group meeting on Friarsgate – too busy being a social media darling to pay proper attention?

  14. Mat Hayward

    27th July, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Tory councillors will be held to blame…future tense? They are to blame.

  15. Neil Turnip

    27th July, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    More nonsense from the MP for spin.

    He is advocating spending hard earned tax payers cash on some grass and flowers to make it look pretty for visitors rather than spending money on the people of the district.

    Sue w is quite right about what burntwood has had to put up with in terms of the blue hoardings.

    The cynic might suggest he doesn’t want any reminders of this project when it comes to election time.

    Despite acknowledging that nobody would fund the scheme he then suggests continuing to develop a major financial drain to the development – a cinema. They don’t make money, they cost money to bring them to a development. So you either have to decide whether this development should spend taxpayers money on a cinema or not. There are cinemas in Tamworth, burton and Barton- why do we need more. If there was a decent public transport to these places after 6pm everyone could access them.

  16. Jeremy

    30th July, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    We definitely need a cinema!. Lichfield is crying out for something to do on an evening other than go to a pub or restaurant. As them for them not making money, if that were true there would be no cinemas, they’re not in for the goodness of their heart!

  17. AnnS

    30th July, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    I agree. We definitely need a cinema. I’m feed up of driving to either Burton or Tamworth and what of those who don’t have a car?

  18. Woody

    31st July, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Lets not forget that the Council have also purchased the now defunct “Police Station”which I understand now stands empty, are they now going to pay to have it demolished or are they going to sell it for another office block or better still convert it into another block of flats!!!!!
    Just thought I would ask!!!

  19. Neil turnip

    31st July, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Jeremy, yes cinema’s make money for themselves but they don’t for the developer. They often require an upfront payment which makes them a financial drain for a developer. A developer makes money by then getting other uses such as restaurants and shops into the development to provide footfall and to pay rent to cover the cost of the cinema. So it’s unusual to have a cinema without the rest….

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