Councillors have called for Lichfield’s former Debenhams store to be converted into an indoor food market in order to prevent the building standing empty.

The Debenhams store in Lichfield

The retailer shut its doors earlier this month as part of the complete closure of the company’s entire high street presence.

The demise of Debenhams in the Three Spires Shopping Centre follows the departure of the unit’s previous tenant TJ Hughes.

But two Lib Dem councillors have called for a rethink on the way the shop space might be used in future.

Cllr Paul Ray and Cllr Hugh Ashton said in a joint statement:

“In the current economic climate, it is hard to imagine another major chain leasing the whole of the space for retail purposes.

“Rather than see it left as an empty eyesore, we have been considering ways in which the space could be used for the benefit of the community.

“The ground floor could be sublet to foodstuff traders who wish to maintain a city presence but cannot afford a full shop unit. This would create a kind of indoor market, similar to that seen in many European cities.

“This would help cement Lichfield’s already established reputation as a unique shopping centre with a focus on craft and artisan food retail.

“Though it is unlikely that all the space available would be used at first, it is easy enough to partition off the unused space, and to make extra space available at seasonal peaks.”

Cllr Paul Ray and Cllr Hugh Ashton

The councillors said the proposal would create another reason for visitors to make a journey to Lichfield.

They also believe the upper floors could be converted into an ‘incubator space’ for new start-ups.

“The location is close to a large car park, and bus and rail stations, meaning that it could be used by those within public transportation range of Lichfield as an alternative to Birmingham.

“Clearly these are just proposals, but we are keen to see the Conservative-led councils take a proactive role here.”

Cllr Paul Ray and Cllr Hugh Ashton

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31 Comments

  1. I think the idea of an indoor food market is perfect,and will give alot of small business’s the chance to show and sell there products

  2. What a good idea. Hopefully more food producers will be interested. Would certainly bring more trade to city. Not many food shops there at the moment.

  3. Now that is an excellent idea ! Especially seeing that space in the traditional market area is being eroded.
    Come on, LDC. Try and do something right for once.

  4. Am I dreaming? A sound idea from a Lichfield Councillor?
    Still the Tory’s have such a strong majority, they will not implement the idea so we can breathe safely.
    C’mon on Tories, prove me wrong and make this happen.

    Well done LibDems!

  5. It’s a nice idea, and something similar works really well at the old Co-Op in Sheffield, but it remains to be seen if Lichfield is big enough to support it. Would be cool if it worked though.

  6. Next to the multistorey car park, keeping cars out of the old part of town & easy access for disabled users. An idea from the councillors in minority, if only we had more councillors from different parties, instead of Conservative!

  7. No chance! These Councillors haven’t a clue! Rather take the greed of building houses than actually giving the area better facilities.

  8. With the gap in the clothing providers with Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins etc could the space be rented out to quality clothing providers, household products etc.
    very similar to Debenhams which so many of us will miss. I’m not sure a food market will attract many people. We have many supermarkets in the town and on outskirts.

  9. This was the exact suggest I made on the last article! So glad to see this being put forward. A Digbeth Dining Club style venue with street food vendors would be perfect, make the space flexible to be utilised for the multitude of events Lichfield is host to. Lets hope this can become a reality, that its economically viable and that the landlords can the confidence to give it a crack!

  10. If the council own this building, it is a great idea.

    If they do not. It would be a expensive venture for the council and council tax payers.

    The old M&S site is up for £147,500 pa.

    If the site costs twice that. They would be a need to take in, around £24,500 a month, just to cover rental.

  11. I suggested this months ago – something modern, similar to the food hall at Birminghams Selfridges would be incredible. The old people of Lichfield will hate it though.

  12. I honestly think things like this are just too little, too late for Lichfield. The dye has been cast in terms of how LDC see the future of the city, and a sprawling overspill of Birmingham doesn’t sit well with me – which is the sole reason my house is due to go on the market on Fri. So sad.

    This council has RUINED this city – all for greed.

  13. I don’t think the people who own the building, or indeed any new owner, would have the imagination or skills to manage it as an indoor food market.

    In the UK and across Europe food halls tend to be owned and managed by local or regional councils, Birmingham indoor food market being a good example.

  14. Great idea – but – landlords will see this as last resort. Lots more admin for them compared to dealing with 1 tenant. Unlikely any Co would take on such high rent on their own! Worth perusing with local council who could lean on building owners.

  15. Love this idea and would be great to have a street food market in one section as well – it would really add to Lichfield’s food scene and transform the top part of the shopping centre. I had heard rumours that M and S were returning to Lichfield, if so, this would be ideal as it has the seprate floors for the foodhall, cafe, clothing etc and the adjoining car parking space. I prefer the first idea but wouldn’t be against M and S coming back to the city!

  16. Pauline unfortunately the council do not own it or the 2 local carparks they are owned by the company that own the shopping centre

  17. Think LDC will have to be more realistic and reduce the rental costs whatever is decided. At the present costing no retailers will even consider coming to Lichfield, especially the small businesses. The very small M&S food hall now closed removed their business because of exorbitant rental costing.

  18. M & S turned down Lichfield before Debenhams took it over
    the last time it became available. I could never see why as it would make a perfect shop for them. Food Hall downstairs and clothes upstairs. Cafe at the top. If the multi storey car park staying now too. Excellent facilities.

  19. I love the idea; I’m not entirely convinced that it’s the right building, but it’s an excellent concept, especially if it could somehow be tied into the regional prominence of the annual food festival. Though Lichfield would need to be careful not to undermine the existing city centre businesses and market stalls that might overlap with a food market.

    Now if only the relevant overlapping District and City jurisdictions could sort out managing Lichfield’s heritage assets. Oh for a properly integrated and funded heritage plan for a city that could be the most important heritage destination between Stratford and Chester if managed with a little care and imagination; as opposed to being turned into quixotic retail competition for Burton and Sutton Coldfield, which seems to be the Conservative-led Councils’ main goal for our city’s future (though, in fairness, we do have a good overall festival programme; at least when we don’t have a pandemic to worry about).

  20. I don’t agree with previous comments. The space is huge, and even if there were enough takers, it will take trade away from the main centre. Why not consider a leisure facility eg ten pin bowling , roller skating rink etc where families could go with children? Department stores are unlikely to ever return to Lichfield. The old M&S store could be used for a small number of startups. I think this would bring families into Lichfield, and give existing and future businesses a chance of growing.

  21. The indoor market is not viable. This was explored for the now demolished Beaconsfield House bit never came to fruition. It’s a very big space to fill. There are established skiing, snowboarding, bowling and cinema facilities a short drive or one train stop away in Tamworth. John Lewis have closed stores on Tamworth and Birmingham and the Arcadia Group are online only now. It doesn’t appear to be an easy building to subdivide. My guess is that it’ll sit empty for years.

  22. Whilst I think it’s an idea of merit, I foresee a significant level of change needed to ensure compliance with relevant health and food standard legislation. Access for traders to drop off goods will be a significant challenge give only two loading bays.

    Not sure there is enough local suppliers to make it a long term viable proposition, it certainly wouldn’t support a normal 5-7 day trading pattern

    But it’s certainly worthy of further investigation to validate viability.

  23. Just hope we are not left with another Pink Elephant. Sounds a fair idea but logistically much will needed to be done. Plus who ever the Landlords are they will need to be realistic in fixing rental costs as small retailers will not come. That’s if they are even interested in coming Lichfield City which is now totally dormant.

  24. News today that M & S are closing more of their stores. Retail was changing anyway and the pandemic has exacerbated this. With small traders having suffered over the last year it is difficult to imagine they will have the finances for such a project, or the hope that it might succeed. Lichfield has become moribund and there is no obvious solution to some of the problems. Just building more and more housing will create worse problems in the future. Perhaps the cities of that future will have have no heart.

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