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Labour councillors accuse Conservatives of holding more talks about future of Friarsgate site behind closed doors

Labour councillors say their Conservative rivals at Lichfield District Council have not learned their lesson over Friarsgate after accusing them of holding secret meetings about the future of the land.

An artist's impression of how the Friarsgate development would have looked where Tempest Ford previously stood
An artist’s impression of how the Friarsgate development would have looked where Tempest Ford previously stood

The long-awaited city centre redevelopment scheme bit the dust earlier this year after more than a decade of planning when it emerged that nowhere near enough funding could be secured.

A working group was set up in the wake of the fall-out, but Following the fiasco of the collapse of the Friarsgate project, the leadership at Lichfield District Council has now been accused of holding discussions behind closed doors.

Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the Labour opposition group, said emails and replies from Tory councillors showed that talks were taking place away from the eyes of other parties.

Sue Woodward
Cllr Sue Woodward

“There’s reference in the emails that were sent to all members to problems, proposals and plans which have clearly been discussed with Conservative members but not with the working group or members in general,” she said.

“I have to presume that these emails were sent inadvertently to the whole council when they were meant for Conservative members only, but they certainly shed light again on the undemocratic and secretive way the administration operates.

“We were all led to believe that this would be an open and inclusive process but it looks like this was just a charade.

“Even at the full council meeting, we were repeatedly told the work on the Birmingham Road Site (BRS) was transparent and  genuinely cross-party. If they’re not willing to be open and honest with all fellow councillors, what chance will the public have?”

The council has admitted that taxpayers still face a bill of more than £7million for Friarsgate, despite not even a brick being laid.

Boarded up shops next to the bus station which had been earmarked for the doomed Friarsgate development
Boarded up shops next to the bus station which had been earmarked for the doomed Friarsgate development

Much of the discussion around the project as it floundered was held away from the gaze of public and media scrutiny.

Cllr Colin Ball, the sole Labour representative of the BRS working group, said: “I was the first to call for a genuinely non-partisan working group and, although it took a while to get off the ground, I thought the plans for the site would genuinely be shared with me as a member.

“I feel like I’ve been led up the garden path – or pile of rubble as a couple of Conservative members describe this site in their replies to this circular email.”

Cllr Woodward added: “After spending £1.9million on the former police station, one councillor described the building as ‘dilapidated’, ‘in a dangerous state of disrepair’ and possibly rat-infested.

“It looks like we’ve all been conned, yet again.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

7 Comments

  1. Flossy

    20th December, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I believe next LDC Elections are May 2019. Frankly they have a few weeks to come up with something which is possible well costed & something for community use/benefit. If not electorate will decide who is incompetent, & vote accordingly. I am not hopeful.

  2. brian pretty

    20th December, 2018 at 10:44 am

    the Tories never learn –

  3. Steve

    20th December, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    @Brian. Sadly, neither do the electorate.

    Most of the architects of this mess, will talk of their dedication, hard work and skills. Then get elected again.

  4. Stowe Resident

    20th December, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    This is typical… of the Labour Party!

    They were clearly in an open email amongst all councillors and decide to run to the press. Trustworthy I think not.

    To be fair, Friarsgate is a pile of rubble Cllr Ball. Good luck with your group.

  5. Colin Ball

    20th December, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    I am very disappointed to see that discussions still seem to be happening behind closed doors. Although it took over three months for the BRS Working Group to be established, I have tried to play a full and active part in all discussions, not pushing any party political line, but genuinely working with everyone there, to try to get a positive resolution to the issue of the site as quickly as possible. Indeed, I had a chat with Councillor Marshall, Chair of the Working Group, on Tuesday evening, after the Council meeting, and he made no mention of any new proposals then.

    I feel that we are very near to reaching consensus on ideas for a new master plan for the site and we should be looking now to ask advice from Consultants about working this up to a realisable and deliverable master plan. Not bad progress since October, I would say, considering that the Tories took nigh on 15 years to create a bomb site!

    I am prepared to continue to serve on the BRS Working Group and contribute my knowledge and experience to make it a success. However, I’m afraid that I will have to reconsider my position, if there continue to be these kinds of discussions behind closed doors. I have already emailed Councillors Pritchard and Marshall to let them know of my disappointment, although I’ve not had any reply yet.

    Colin Ball – Lichfield City and District Councillor for Curborough.

  6. LetsGiveItASpin

    20th December, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    You councillors , and that includes all of you , just dont learn, you carry on squabbling , picking fights on public forums , saying it’s not me , its them , i am not playing no more and taking my toys home, whilst you continue to claim your attendance allowances, free tea and coffees , spending more of the public purse you don’t have left to spend … Sadly neither labour or tories are fit for office in Lichfield . The only time and the only way for this to be resolved , is for independents to take office , but that his hardly likely to happen …. Lichfield is being taken for a ride by all councillors and officers …. and no one and nothing can stop them

    Very sad state of affairs . I look forward to seeing my inflation busting increase in council tax shortly ….

  7. John Griffin

    21st December, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Sorry, which party left office with a big surplus in the bank? Labour. Which party locally and nationally has massively increased debt and created chaos? Conservatives, though with the occasional sane and honest voice among them. Labour have their bad apples, just not the whole barrel.Very few Independents do anything of value. The best hope round here is the sane bunch of Labour members plus some other honest people who’ve tried to change the ways of Cllr Wilcox and his crew. Cllr Ball seems to have tried but found betrayal. Kick the Tories out.

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