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Independent candidate accuses Conservatives of trying to spin failure to deliver Friarsgate

An independent local election candidate has accused the Conservatives of trying to spin the failure of the Friarsgate scheme.

Joanne Grange
Joanne Grange

Leaflets issued to residents in Lichfield by the party say the controlling Tory group at Lichfield District Council made “the right decision” when it opted not to foot the bill for the redevelopment scheme.

Friarsgate had been more than a decade in the planning when it eventually collapsed after only a fraction of the required funding could be raised in the private sector.

Joanne Grange, who will stand as an independent in the Chadsmead ward and was a Conservative councillor before resigning in a row over planning policies, said the leaflet was merely an attempt to hide the failure of the Tory group to deliver the redevelopment scheme.

She said comments by Conservative councillor Iain Eadie, a former Cabinet member, who said Friarsgate was a missed opportunity, didn’t tally up with the election material issued by the party.

“There’s spin and then there’s Lichfield Tory spin,” she said.

“It would be good to understand what the party line is given this leaflet seems to say wasting loads of taxpayers’ cash was the right thing to do, while councillors are telling Lichfield Live cancelling it was wrong.

“The decision not to proceed with Friarsgate was the end of a long process – it should have been stopped a long time before it actually was.

“The issue with the leaflet is the spin, not the decision.”

Closed door meetings

Miss Grange also questioned whether the Conservatives had learned from the mistakes of the past.

“Presenting ideas for what the Friarsgate site may include in advance of the working group concluding undermines the process,” she said.

“It also suggests that lessons on closed door meetings haven’t been learned.

“Friarsgate is a £10million derelict site in the middle of the city. I understand the desire to try to present positives with imminent elections, but they should expect to be called out for spin.”

But Jon O’Hagan, who will represent the Conservatives at the local elections, said the future of the Friarsgate site – now rebranded the Birmingham Road Site – will be a good news story for the city.

“With the land we now own we can do something really special,” he said.

“Cancelling Friarsgate was the right thing to do.

“Fortunately, Lichfield District Council owns those 7 acres of land. We are our own developer and the ideas coming from the consultations are good.

“I think we’ll have a fantastic mixed use site that will showcase Lichfield’s appeal.

“It’s definitely exciting and has massive potential.”

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13 Comments

  1. John Griffin

    18th April, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Nothing new from the Tories. But they aren’t totally incompetent failures Joanne, somebody has made a lot of ££££ out of Friarsgate, it’s just not the taxpayers and constituents.

  2. AnnS

    22nd April, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Care to share with us, the electorate, Jon O’Hagan what the …fantastic mixed use site will consist of before the local elections? Or is this just more spin?

  3. Jon O'Hagan

    22nd April, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    AnnS, I can’t give you that detail because the consultation process is on going. The feedback so far is for mixed use.

    A cinema is still a popular idea with residents, as is leisure, heritage, and affordable housing for younger people. Colin Ball, a fellow member of the Task Group wants 40% social housing on the BRS site. I’m not in favour of that idea, but these are some of the many that are being considered.

    Don’t forget that most of the money spent, has been used to buy the and that Lichfield now owns. It is invested, not wasted, and will be made into something special for the City.

    For the record, I’m glad that the plug was pulled on Friarsgate. When it was first conceived, it looked fantastic. Over time it became outdated, and was the wrong thing for Lichfield.

    To push on with Friaresgate would have been irresponsible.

    I am looking forward to seeing want other ideas the consultation will produce

  4. Philip Brindley

    22nd April, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    So Mr o’hagan where is the tax payers of burntwoods money been spent considering you have given sweet nothing for the past 3 or more yrs, the conservatives have wrecked Burntwood your just a disgrace and it says it all with that fiasco.

  5. Darryl Godden

    22nd April, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Honestly, this Luddite approach makes me want to puke.

    Share, share the ideas, use social media, Lichfield Live, the Mercury etc. “this is what we have so far – what do people think?”

    Die a death these bureaucratic practises, get modern, move into the now or resign – the lot of you.

  6. Philip Allso

    23rd April, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Somewhat disingenuously of Jon O’Hagon to say Friarsgate was the wrong thing for Lichfield. Had the finances been available they would have gone ahead with it. What with the closed meetings and the wrecked businesses the Conservatives would like to sweep it under the huge pile of debris now on the site. To say it will be for ‘mixed use ‘ is really saying we haven’t got a clue what to do. ‘Something special for Lichfield’? Look out for flying pigs!

  7. Jon O'Hagan

    24th April, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Joanne will confirm the LDC could have borrowed the money to fund Friaresgate.

    The majority of the conservative group voted not to do that. We believed that it was not the right investment for Lichfield.

    Friaresgate cannot be swept away and forgotten. What we can do is deliver a scheme that works for Lichfield.

  8. JLC

    24th April, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Jon O’Hagan……proceeding with Friarsgate would have been irresponsible? So too is spending £10 million of local taxpayers money on sweet FA. As a Conservative councillor – you are in NO position to lecture on what is and isn’t “responsible”.

    I have made a FOI request to LCC asking for a breakdown of what has been spent on Friarsgate thus far, including the loss of revenue/tax from the 3 businesses that were unnecessarily closed, and the salaries of the additional employees drafted in to project manage the aftermath of the mess. I’ll publish those results here when I get them.

    Quite simply, the spectacular failure of the current council is beyond belief. Financial mismanagement to the tune of £10m, councillors taken to task over undeclared interests, the leader of the council given a warning for using his council email address to promote his timeshare…..! It’s bordering on farce. I just hope the electorate remembers all of these things at the elections and doesn’t get taken in by the complete BS spouted by the current bunch of Tory councillors.

  9. Philip Brindley

    24th April, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    JLC
    I couldn’t of put it any better myself, I’ve been asking our local councillors and Mp how the hell Wilcox and the rest of the Tory imbeciles that as structured this absolute mess still have jobs. We in burntwood along with others have paid our council tax to be sprayed like fertiliser by these idiots without any thought been given, but they can put a levy on the brown bins so we know have to pay for that to be collected, so that’s more money bout time we started to boycott this Bs Tory run council.

  10. Just saying...

    24th April, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    There is a clear smoke and mirrors act going on here and something that belongs in the Garrick, not the real world.
    The Friarsgate development would have gone ahead had the funding been available. The council were buoyant about the prospect right up until the time the developer walked. The developer partner and the proposed tenants got cold feet and ditched it before they committed even more time and effort to the scheme. Developer and Consultant fees show that at least someone has earned some money out of this and the demolition of a old decrepid building are the only plus points for some, although I’m sure Tempest Ford would have something to say about that: maybe the crushed demolition material currently occupying the site could be sold and the proceeds put back into the LDC kitty?!
    Make the land into a gateway to the City, a tourist centre with a world class, energy efficient visitors building that sign posts the cathedral and other historic buildings and facilities in the City from the station and the main road into Lichfield. Incorporating an open space and, OK… yet another coffee shop I’m sure! Lichfield retail and that of town centres of similar size is struggling due to high rents and rates. Adding more retail when we all know that the centre is used for eating and drinking is, in the current climate, an outdated idea.

  11. Michel Souris

    24th April, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    Well Councillor O’Hagan, if your comments are true then the Cabinet Members were out of step with the mainstream Tory group who opposed the Friarsgate development. Or…are you trying to play it both ways to maintain some semblance of hope in the upcoming election. For my part, I hope you, the Tory group and Wilcox receive the bloody nose that you deserve for the farce now known as Friarsgate. But what do I know when compared with Councillor O’Hagan??

  12. Chris Stanley

    25th April, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    @JLC, IMO if you want to avoid more sweet FA and get answers PDQ you’d be better with an FOI to LDC than LCC.

  13. Steve

    25th April, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    @Jon O’Hagan. I would be interested to know when did you and the other councillors start to see Friarsgate as a bad move?

    The project has been going on for over a decade. Why did the council continue to go ahead and bulldoze the site, if very few councillors agreed with the project and there was no money to continue the project?

    £1.732 million was spent on professional fees and project management

    £6.194 million was spent relating to Friarsgate on buying property assets valued at £4.03 million that the council now owns.

    https://lichfieldlive.co.uk/2019/04/05/conservative-candidates-challenge-rivals-to-tackle-key-issues-in-hustings-debate-ahead-of-lichfield-district-council-elections/

    Project management? I know I am not the brightest, spending £6 million on something worth £4 million, does not seem great value for money.

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