Residents do not want to see the long-awaited redevelopment of Lichfield city centre kicked further down the road, a Lichfield councillor has said.

An artist’s impression of the city centre masterplan

Members of Lichfield District Council debated plans to forge ahead with the city centre masterplan.

Proposals to spend £330,000 were supported in a vote which saw 35 councillors back the scheme, eight go against it and one abstain.

Labour’s Cllr Dave Robertson was one of those who supported the scheme saying action was now needed.

Cllr Dave Robertson

“After such a long period of time the people of the city deserve something to happen on that site.

“It’s years now since businesses were demolished and people lost their jobs.

“I remember back when the original funding was pulled for Friarsgate being told it had taken too long – it was 14 years after it was first mentioned that it fell to pieces.

“One of the reasons it went wrong was the delay and that retail had changed so significantly in that period that things that would have been viable were no longer viable.

“I don’t think we can afford anymore can kicking on this. The people of the city deserve something to happen on that site.

“It should be a site which delivers jobs and real economic security for people within Lichfield.”

Cllr Dave Robertson

Conservative member Cllr Colin Greatorex said doing nothing would cost the local authority in both the short and long term.

“Standing still is not an option – when you look at the Friarsgate site you realise just how much it has been standing still.

“We could wait six months and still be in the same position. Then in six months time we’d have criticism saying ‘why didn’t you do something in 2020 when you could have done?’.

“We have a site that’s earning us nothing. There were properties previously earning somebody something, whether it’s a police station or a garage or whatever. Both sites are earning us nothing but they are incurring costs. It needs to be moved forward.

“There will not be just one option coming out of the masterplan – there will be a series of options and we can choose whatever is appropriate at the time.”

Cllr Colin Greater

“We will regret this hugely if we push forward now”

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

The councillors who voted against the plan to spend the money were:

  • Cllr Robert Birch (Lab)
  • Cllr Darren Ennis (Lab)
  • Cllr Laura Ennis (Lab)
  • Cllr Di Evans (Lab)
  • Cllr Joanne Grange (Ind)
  • Cllr Alistair Little (Cons)
  • Cllr Steve Norman (Lab)
  • Cllr Brad Westwood (Lab)

Conservative member Cllr James Parton-Hughes abstained.

Cllr Darren Ennis said he was not against the idea of the masterplan, but said the timing needed to be right.

“I have massive concerns that we are going to hire a consultant and ask them about future plans for a city centre in six months time. No-one can answer that question.

“Waiting a year or six months when we’ve got some sort of an idea of what’s happening with COVID-19 would be a better and more prudent thing for us to do as a council.

“We could make mistakes – we’ve made them before with a plan for our city centre, and by pushing forward too fast, too quickly we could make similar mistakes.

“I don’t quite get the rush. We see COVID-19 is on the rise and we are going to see lots of businesses struggling and needing support.

“We don’t need to discuss a masterplan when we’ve already got a city centre full of struggling businesses. We do need to rethink this.

“I’m not against a masterplan and I’m a great believer in the city needing a plan for the future but I believe it needs to be the correct plan.”

Cllr Darren Ennis

Cllr Joanne Grange said the council needed to reflect on the timing of the plan to spend more money on the site amidst current uncertainty.

Cllr Joanne Grange

“If we were a business we would not be going through this process now to make decisions that could affect the use of land in our city centre for generations.

“Everyone would tell us to slow down because it’s the wrong time and we don’t know what the future is going to look like.

“I think we will regret this hugely if we push forward now and spend money we can’t recoup to tell us that we shouldn’t make a decision because we don’t know what the world’s going to look like.

“It just strikes me as a bizarre thing to be thinking about doing.”

Cllr Joanne Grange

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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9 Comments

  1. Residents simply want to know they are getting value for money and that there is a clear and achievable plan with realistic goals. Neither of these “wants” have been fulfilled so far.

  2. It seems Councillors have very short memories.

    The same Councillors who allowed the businesses to be destroyed, are now complaining it’s costing the council money.

    There are really 3 options:
    Retail – Lichfield could not even fill the current available shop units, during normal times.
    Leisure – Expensive to set up and Lichfield cannot provide the profits the companies would require to make it viable.
    Homes – The council can get some of their money back from this failed project and stop throwing further money at it.

    It will be a housing estate.

  3. Steve, you’re dead right. It will be homes and for the elderly, once again. The whole city centre is now littered with housing for the elderly. It’s no wonder Lichfield is failing – very little for anyone whose younger than 80 years old. I’ve lived in Lichfield for 25 years and seen it change into a giant retirement city. Boring.

  4. @Steve, not all of us were involved in the previous stages. 2019 was the first election I’ve stood in, so I’m a new Councillor at LDC.

    Its taken that long to get this far with Friarsgate/BRS that I wasn’t even eligible to vote to for the group of Councillors who started all this.

    I’ve also always said that this site needs to provide real employment opportunities for the people of the City and District (and did so again on Tuesday). Currently the site is earmarked for a mixed use development. This should be the next step in bringing that, and the jobs it’ll create, forwards.

  5. @Dave_Robertson. I genuinely hope you are right and I am wrong.

    I work for a large multi national company. They are looking to close lots of the offices. Working from home, gives them the chance to save many millions in office space costs.

    Bricks and mortar businesses are closing.

    I do know, the Civil Service are looking to move a lot of jobs out of London. Maybe, investigate the possibility of becoming a Civil Service hub. It would bring well paid jobs to Lichfield and could subsidise retail space.

    If LDC are going to be the landlord. It could help to make the retail offering more attractive.

  6. Well said, Dave. As a relatively new Councillor too, only elected in the July 2018 by-election in Curborough, I voted in support of this as well. I was openly and fiercely critical of the original Friarsgate fiasco, but feel that the new batch of Tory Councillors in the Cabinet have made a better fist of the plans and process for the city centre than the previous Cabinet. We need to move on with the plans to come up with some real employment opportunities and genuine mixed use development for Lichfield city centre. I would oppose any further building of housing for elderly people there, but would support some genuinely affordable housing for young people and families, as well as the other mixed use proposals for the site.

  7. Richard is absolutely right. Whatever happens with this site, the last thing Lichfield needs is yet more retirement housing. If anyone would benefit from such centrally located accommodation, it would be people who need to use public transport to get to work or college. Longer term this might encourage more commuting by public transport and be better for the environment.

  8. Please don’t do boring, if you want to do retail, provide smaller units for creative and unique sellers, not the same old “Big” retailers on every towns high street which are dying on their arses. The best retail shops in Lichfield are the small businesses, dont go head to head with Tamworth Ventura park, fight clever and provide an experience that they cant.
    Or if that’s too exciting, just build houses for those in their “end of life transition”.

  9. There is no master ‘plan’. Just a desperate rush to fill the space. Sadly there is a complete lack of the courage and vision that is needed to create a space that the growing population of the City will need.

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