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Lichfield Lib Dem councillor calls for housing on Friarsgate land – but not just for high earners and retired people

Housing should be considered for land earmarked for Friarsgate, according to a Lichfield Lib Dem councillor – but he insisted it shouldn’t be purely for high earners and retired people.

An artist's impression of the doomed Friarsgate development

An artist’s impression of the doomed Friarsgate development

A working group has been set up to explore options for the redevelopment land in the city centre after the long-awaiting scheme collapsed earlier this year after a decade in the planning, leaving taxpayers facing a £7million bill.

What happens next to the site has already seen Labour and the controlling Conservative group clash over how the decision will be made.

But Cllr Paul Ray, Liberal Democrat councillor for Chadsmead, believes a fresh approach to using the land is needed.

“Our vision has been well received from the consultations we have had with the local community,” he said.

“The Lib Dem vision includes working with housing associations to provide family-centric housing as a key part of the development, thereby infusing new life and energy into the centre of the city.

“We must not just allow the housing on this site to be more housing mainly for the retired and high-end earners.”

“A ticking bomb”

The Lib Dems have also called for other elements not included in the initial Friarsgate plans to be considered.

Paul Ray

Paul Ray

“We propose that a leisure centre complex near the transportation hubs would benefit all of the Lichfield district,” he said.

“A ticking bomb in Lichfield is what’s going to happen to the Friary Leisure Centre. This will need a full refurb soon, so we should explore the opportunity of using the new Friarsgate scheme to improve the leisure centre facilities in Lichfield – we’d propose a gym and pool being built on the site.

“We are living in times when the importance of healthy living and an active lifestyle are rightly being heavily promoted. So a new publicly-funded leisure facility right in the centre of Lichfield would be a really positive message to the community and would make these facilities very accessible.”

Leisure facilities

The collapse of Friarsgate also means the city will not get a multi-screen cinema facility that had been proposed since the early days of the scheme more than ten years ago.

And Cllr Ray wants any replacement development to consider what residents need.

“We certainly need an improved and wider range of leisure facilities in the district,” he said. “A cinema was part of the original plans and we strongly supported that element.

“Also, with the Neighbourhood Plan promoting Lichfield as a City of Festivals, we can expect more visitors as the number of these events increases. What better place than Friarsgate, where visitors coming by train, bus or coach first catch sight of the city, to place a museum, tourist centre, or other heritage project, which might easily be funded by the National Lottery or similar?”

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  1. Dave

    15th October, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Can we all move to planet Lib Dem where there appears to be no shortage of cash….

  2. Cllr Jon O'Hagan

    16th October, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Cllr Ray arrived late to that meeting of the Birmingham Road Site Working Group. He then left early, after being there for about half an hour.

    The rest of the Group were there for the full meeting, which lasted two and a half hours.

    If Cllr Ray had attended, he might have a better understanding of what was discussed. It might even have made him think twice before rushing off to Lichfield Live in an attempt to try and point score or to offer up his political sound bites.

    On second thoughts, it probably wouldn’t. On reflection, my only surprise in Cllr Ray’s paternalistic I and the Liberal democrats know best attitude is that he didn’t blame everything on the Brexit voters.

  3. wilf

    16th October, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Yes, I’m sure he missed out on not hearing what the Tories, who managed to balls up Friarsgate despite having a 15 year run at it, have planned. I wonder which developer they’ll allow to lead them up the garden path this time?

  4. PeoplePower

    16th October, 2018 at 8:24 am

    “Running to Lichfield Live” Mr O’Hagan? You mean talking to people about what’s planned rather than just holding secret meetings behind closed doors while you decide how best to try and cover up the latest mess you lot have made?

    The Lib Dems might be as much use as a chocolate tea pot but at least this one is prepared to let people know what they’re doing and thinking rather than squirrelling away like the bloody freemasons. Lichfield’s Conservatives are a law unto themselves and running their own little private members/retirement club. This would be fine if they weren’t peeing millions of taxpayer cash up the wall.

  5. Cllr Sue Woodward

    16th October, 2018 at 9:05 am

    I’m glad that Cllr Ray is following the Labour’s councillors’ lead on the issue of affordable housing and, in particular, that of Cllr Colin Ball who is also a member of this working group. Thankfully. (He stayed for the whole meeting as well.) The council tax payers of Lichfield District also need to know that the Council’s resources (inc their money) are being spent fairly, across the whole area, rather than being shovelled into the now-renamed Birmingham Rd site to cover the Tories’ embarrassment following the failed Friarsgate fiasco.

  6. Colin Ball

    17th October, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for the support, Sue. Yes, if Councillor Ray had been able to attend the whole meeting, he would have heard me again argue the case for affordable housing for rent for part of this site, as well as supporting other Councillors arguing for a cinema and leisure facilities. As you know, that’s not the first time that I have argued for more genuinely affordable housing for rent in Lichfield at Council meetings, but then I don’t think that Councillor Ray was there to hear me then either!

    Indeed, pretty much all of the points mentioned by Councillor Ray, apart from the very expensive and probably unrealisable idea of a swimming pool, were raised by someone at the Working Group. However, we do intend also to ensure that there is genuine consultation with local people and businesses before we come up with any long term proposals. I feel very strongly that we need to listen to what people want, rather than try to tell them what we think they want.

    Lichfield City and District Councillor Colin Ball (Curborough Ward)

  7. Michel Souris

    18th October, 2018 at 6:54 am

    If Cllr Ray only attends part of a meeting maybe we should ask for data about his attendance at all other meetings. If he shows the same commitment to other meetings as this one then, surely, he should not be receiving his full allowance for being a Councillor.

  8. Philip Allso

    19th October, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    I would be interested to know what constitutes affordable housing. Would they have a council estate? Or perhaps something the buy to let market would lap up. Personally I would appreciate development suitable to a heritage city with potential to bring in tourists. No doubt those on the council with building connections will have their way.