Councillors in Burntwood have renewed their calls for the town to get a fairer share of funding on the first anniversary of the collapse of Lichfield’s Friarsgate redevelopment plans.
The long-awaited city centre scheme bit the dust last year, leaving taxpayers facing a bill of millions and leading to half of Lichfield District Council’s Cabinet at the time to resign.
Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of Burntwood Town Council, was the leader of the opposition Labour group at the district council at the time the Friarsgate scheme was scrapped.
She subsequently lead calls for the local authority’s Conservative leadership to spend more money in Burntwood and the rural areas as the cost of the failed scheme continued to spiral beyond the initial £7million bill.
Cllr Woodward, who stood down from the district council in May, said: “Twelve months on, there has been little visible progress with the redevelopment of the site at Birmingham Road.
“It was described by one former Conservative as ‘a pile of rubble’ and that’s before the old police station is demolished.
“Apparently, consultants are to be appointed by the end of this month to develop plans, but the Conservative administrations have acted like rabbits in headlights for a year now.
“As the then opposition leader, I proposed a review of the council’s capital budgets to ensure that areas outside the city also had a fair share of resources.
“Nothing has moved forward on that front either and the modest proposal we put forward to allocate £1million to Burntwood and £750,000 to the rural communities was rejected earlier this year by the previous council.
“Even the £60,000 now to be spent on consultants could have been well-spent in Burntwood and that’s a tiny fraction of what’s already been spent on the Birmingham Road Site.”
“Progress on the Birmingham Road wasteland”
Cllr Steve Norman, who took over the Labour group leadership from his wife when he was elected last month, said he was committed to ensuring Friarsgate failures of the past would not be repeated.
“The new Conservative leadership has promised a fairer deal for Burntwood and progress on the Birmingham Road wasteland, which is fast becoming a tourist attraction in itself,” he said.
“The recently strengthened opposition will hold them to those promises.”
At the time of the Friarsgate collapse, there had been criticism over the number of meetings held behind closed doors, including one that saw confidential documents regarding the demise of the scheme presented to the council in June 2018.
However, one local resident has had an appeal to the Information Commissioner upheld, leading to them being made available to him.
But Labour are now calling for them to be made visible to all taxpayers.
Cllr Woodward said: “I trust that new council members and the new leadership will have learnt lessons from the Friarsgate fiasco and that Labour’s call for fairer capital investment across the whole district will be listened to.”