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