A Conservative councillor says the decision by Lichfield District Council not to fund Friarsgate was a missed opportunity.
The local authority is currently seeking a way forward following the collapse of the long-awaited scheme.
Private funding failed to materialise for the project, meaning the only option left was for the council to fund the multi-million regeneration project – a move which was eventually rejected by councillors.
Cllr Iain Eadie had previously served on the Cabinet at the council before resigning in the wake of the Friarsgate collapse.
And he has insisted he believes the local authority’s failure to stump up the cash was a missed opportunity.
“Lichfield District Council has an approved property investment strategy that is part of its Medium Term Financial Strategy. This strategy is to borrow £45million for the purposes of investing in commercial property assets.
“The council would then use the rent received, less the borrowing costs, to help meet part of the difference between what it receives in council tax and its current spending commitments on services.
“Friarsgate was a development that was ready to begin, had it been financed. No external funders came forward to do so. Lichfield District Council could have funded the scheme but councillors took a decision not to do so.
“I stood down from Cabinet because my actions could not get the council, despite its intended property investment strategy, to fund development and regeneration when this was ready to happen.
“An opportunity has therefore been lost. Retailers who had agreed to come to Lichfield have not and Marks & Spencer has now closed.
“With a property investment strategy the council has the potential to fund what plan emerges for the site, now referred to as Birmingham Road Site.
“This has the potential to be a mixed use development encompassing residential dwellings, leisure activities, and potentially retail, or, offices. Friarsgate was a mixed use development that included residential, leisure and retail, which is why we wanted the council to make this happen when it had the chance.”
“Property investment strategy”
The council is also setting aside £3million as part of plans to set up its own property investment company, and Cllr Iain Eadie says there is a real chance for a bright future for the city.
“Many other local authorities have adopted a property investment strategy, as well as investing in their high streets to deliver regeneration,” he said. “Lichfield District Council has the opportunity to do the same and I would like to see them do this sooner, rather than later.
“This has the opportunity to create new jobs, keep people who live in our district spending in our district, instead of going elsewhere, while also helping the council secure more of its services for the long term future.”