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“There is likely to be more caution and a lot less competition for sites”


Plans for the future redevelopment of Lichfield city centre may need to be revisited in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a report has warned.

Members of Lichfield District Council’s cabinet are set to debate the proposed city centre masterplan at a meeting next week.

But a report by David Lock Associates – who helped produce the masterplan – say the coronavirus crisis will mean developers may be more cautious than they would have been pre-pandemic.

“Assessing development viability will be extremely difficult and individual developers may have different takes on a site depending on how they have weathered the storm.

“There is likely to be more caution and a lot less competition for sites.

“Sites in non-prime locations will inevitably be even more difficult to get out of the ground than before.

“As the private sector withdraws, the public sector is set to play a greater role in development either in partnership with the private sector to reduce risk or via direct development.

“Either way a period of development inactivity is likely to ensue whilst we wait to see how well the coronavirus is kept under control and what the new normal will look like.”

Lichfield City Centre Masterplan: Potential Impacts of Covid-19 report by David Lock Associates

The masterplan came about after the long-awaited Friarsgate scheme bit the dust after more than a decade of planning when both private and public finance failed to materialise.

Councillors have already clashed over the future of the new masterplan, over concerns around whether the council might approve £45million to get a new redevelopment scheme off the ground.

That led to the resignation of overview and scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Alastair Little who warned of the potential for “another Friarsgate and another complete disaster”.

But the report says the current situation may create “a golden opportunity” to rethink parts of the plan.

“The future is uncertain in relation to how the property market will respond to the crisis.

“It is evident that investment decisions will be delayed and more cautious attitude to risk will be adopted by both investors and developers.

“Notwithstanding this, the recovery period represents a golden opportunity to revisit the masterplan and deliver buildings which respond to the demands of the ‘new normal’.”

Lichfield City Centre Masterplan: Potential Impacts of Covid-19 report by David Lock Associates

Among the potential changes include:

  • A larger bus station to accommodate social distancing.
  • Increased outdoor space for bars and restaurants.
  • More private outdoor space for with new residential properties.
  • A potential reduction in the number of new car parking spaces.

“Residential development may prove an attractive alternative”

The report also warns that some small-scale office space in areas such as the University West Car Park may need to be rethought.

The hoardings around the site earmarked for the failed Friarsgate scheme on Birmingham Road

“As with the Birmingham Road area, the level of demand for this type of use remains to be seen.

“Residential development with green space may prove an attractive alternative.”

Lichfield City Centre Masterplan: Potential Impacts of Covid-19 report by David Lock Associates

The report added that while a period of uncertainty was likely for all new developments, areas such as the city centre were well positioned.

“Small towns and cities with green spaces and attractive centres are predicted to bounce back quicker from the effects of the pandemic than city centres in the larger conurbations.

“Investors and developers will still be looking for opportunities and on the face of it, Lichfield will be well placed to take advantage of this interest.

“There will be a requirement for the public sector to take more of a lead role in development and access to funding and borrowing will drive public sector activity.

“Monitoring footfall, gathering evidence on economic performance and any gaps in the market will be a crucial part of the District Council’s push to deliver the masterplan.

“This information will provide the bedrock for developing businesses cases to access any new funding initiatives announced as part of the Government COVID-19 Recovery Plan.

“Accessing funding will help to bring forward phases of the masterplan which may otherwise be pushed back.”

Lichfield City Centre Masterplan: Potential Impacts of Covid-19 report by David Lock Associates

The report will be debated by the cabinet at Lichfield District Council on Tuesday (7th July).

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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6 Comments

  1. Why? The coronavirus is likely to last a relatively short time. The centre needs to have viability into the next decade and beyond. While car parking might be less required while the shops have been enforcably closed, the time will shortly come when they will all be needed again. If Lichfield wants visitors it needs car parks!
    We have waited many, many years for the council to produce a workable plan. These advisors clearly take the short term view. Using a short term issue as an expedient to put up some more tacky boxes is risible.
    It is a difficult situation, but if the council take this easy option it will hold them in contempt by a population already questioning their competence.

  2. Philip yes we need carparks and at reasonable prices. I live in one of the outlying villages our bus is 1 every 2 hours non on a Saturday or Sunday so the only way to get to town is drive. But don’t expect a councilor to even think about anyone not living within walking distance of the town. Never seen our councilor don’t even know who he or she is

  3. First and foremost this is a virus and certainly not a long term game changer for a city.
    Why the talk of long term? All a bit CON-venient isn’t it?

    Lichfield is a mess currently, more houses popping up all the time and less and less actual repairs.

    More residents equals more income so why are services being neglected? The roads are a disaster. Half of the pedestrian crossings dont have sirens. There are no filters for traffic in the most obvious of places even though there are lights.

    I could go on but really what’s the point?

    I emailed our so called council and MP for a pathetic response from both, you’d think we lived in a low cost area with no income the way they reply

    What a shame Lichfield is going down down down

    Jamie

  4. Sorry Lichfield is god’s waiting room,why on earth does one city need so much retirement villages,flats ect.Wot about the next generation and tryin.All these properties that are been built yet nobody is thinking about things for our kids or family to enjoy like cinema’s bowling ect

  5. Theirs no life in Lichfield,their hasn’t been for 20 years ,affordable housing to attract younger generations and their families is non existent the nightlife consists of a few low grade pubs and one trouble spot night club venue and a theatre that can’t fund itself ,sadly it’s just satilite city once seen ,nothing much to attract you back again .

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