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