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Candidates standing for 2019 local elections in Lichfield warned residents will want answers over future of Friarsgate land

Candidates at next year’s local elections will need to be clear about their views on the future of the Friarsgate site, according to a Lichfield community group.

Voters will return to the polls in May 2019 and the Beacon Street Area Residents’ Association (BSARA) believes the uncertainty over the future direction for Lichfield will still be high on the agenda of local residents.

The Friarsgate project fell by the wayside after failing to secure funding despite more than a decade of planning.

An artist's impression of the Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the Friarsgate development

The demise of the scheme has left taxpayers with a £7million bill and chunks of land lying vacant opposite one of the transport gateways to the city.

A spokesperson for BSARA said the elections would be a chance for voters to make their views heard.

“It is now critical that the Lichfield electorate is allowed to have a say on what should be developed on the Friarsgate site,” they said. “We will be at the forefront of asking for this.

“The good thing is that there are council elections in May 2019 – this enables pressure to be brought on prospective candidates.

“BSARA is politically-neutral, but we have had to speak out about all of the political shenanigans that have been happening in our lovely city – Friarsgate was doomed to fail.”

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has also urged local councillors to up their game and draw up fresh plans for the land earmarked for redevelopment.

The BSARA spokesperson added that the scheme needed to be relevant to the city and the modern shape of the retail landscape.

“We have always maintained that Friarsgate was the wrong type of development in the wrong place and at the wrong time,” they said.

“The change in high street shopping patterns has been gaining momentum over the timespan of Friarsgate, making this project financially unviable.

“Lichfield is an historical tourist city with many individual shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs making it somewhere different to visit.

“It would be good to see all the small individual shops currently empty taken by more niche businesses and thus enhancing the city’s tourist reputation.”

Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council has previously said the local authority will consult with residents to find a way forward for the empty Friarsgate site.

BSARA’s spokesperson added that the council needed to ensure it was listening rather than going through the motions when it comes to consultation.

“Lichfield District Council have got to sort out their financial position and make good use of the sites that they have already acquired rather than developing anywhere else on a ‘let’s do this on a whim’ basis,” they added.

“The time has now come for councillors and planners to have meaningful consultations with all parties interested in making good use of Lichfield’s assets.

“The days of box ticking are over. The council must learn from this debacle and listen to what is being said by individuals and organisations during consultation exercises.”

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  1. LetsGiveItASpin

    30th July, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Sold for housing and that’s it. Any consultation is just token gesture. They have already decided that it’s going to be housing and that is why the land is felt to be valuable as they desperately try to save the budget from collapsing and also the costs of the multi storey which they need to deal with sooner rather than later ….

  2. Steve

    30th July, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Social Housing, costs the council a fortune to build and then the council lose money for the rest of time.

    Shopping centre. Been tried and failed.

    Cinema, The Garrick has had to have millions of pounds of council tax payer funded handouts.

    Landscaped area. Costs money and costs more to maintain.

    Expensive apartments with convenient access to city centre and train connections. A done deal.

  3. Philip Allso

    31st July, 2018 at 8:22 am

    One way or another people will always want to shop. The austerity measures over the last decade or more has inevitably caught up with increasing costs not matching incomes so there is less disposable income to spend. Also council’s (especially Lichfield) have “milked” the motorists with parking fees and reduced footfall. This, together with sky high business rates has made it very difficult to produce profits for shop holders. The internet has also had an impact as the overheads there are much less and this allows for reduced prices. The situation becomes self fulfilling as when shops disappear there is less reason to go to town centres. Even the markets have shrunk. I love small market towns and visit many that have bucked this trend by taking a more sensible approach. In Market Drayton I paid £1.20 for all day parking. Most have public swimming pools and cinemas. They also look after their assets and don’t overdevelop the centres. We were like that once but have lost our way trying to compete with bigger neighbours. Success doesn’t just happen, you have to create an environment that encourages it. As far as city income is concerned, a little from a lot is worth more than a lot from a little! After Brexit there will be a time of adjustment we should be planning for the long term not just the next five years, and bring our city back to life.

  4. John Griffiin

    31st July, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Alas i think Steve is right. The area cleared is opposite luxury development and is ripe for a development with internal court/garden, gated parking and high slit window view on the road. As Steve says, done deal.