Work needs to take place to deal with an “eyesore” piece of land in Lichfield city centre, two councillors say.

The former Tempest Ford site in Lichfield city centre

The former Tempest Ford site has been left empty since the proposed Friarsgate redevelopment collapsed in 2018.

Now re-branded as the Birmingham Road site by the local authority, it has been surrounded by hoardings ever since the garage was demolished to make way for the failed scheme.

In a joint statement, Liberal Democrat councillors Paul Ray and Miles Trent say Lichfield District Council must ensure building begins to bring the land back into use.

Cllr Paul Ray and Cllr Miles Trent in front of one of the hoardings

“Things have gone very quiet with this site and there does need to be some progress. It is an eyesore and a wasteland. 

“We do appreciate that Covid-19 has caused delay, but the council does now need to get on with getting construction started on-site.

“The original plans envisaged about 100 town houses and flats on the site and there is very large demand for housing in Lichfield, so let’s get this building started – and as part of the plan to tackle the housing crisis in our area these houses or flats must be affordable.”

Cllr Paul Ray and Cllr Miles Trent

Cllr Ray has raised the issue with the Conservative leader of Lichfield District Council, Cllr Doug Pullen, who has arranged a briefing for members on 12th August.

“I am grateful that this briefing has been arranged and hope that we will be given details of some real progress on the way forward for the site.

“I am also asking for a further update on the Debenhams building. It is not owned by the council but the council has an important role here in making things happen.

“Myself and Cllr Hugh Ashton have previously proposed that the building 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.

“The upper floors could also be converted into an ‘incubator space’ for new start-ups.”

Cllr Paul Ray

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31 Comments

  1. Thousands of houses are being built all around Lichfield, why do we need yet more housing here? Why can’t we have something different and interesting for the city centre? All these counsellors want to do is build houses everywhere! It’s actually ridiculous.

  2. Simon – Of course, there are indeed houses being built all around Lichfield. However, there are very good reasons for incorporating housing into city centre developments.
    Housing around the perimeter of a city does not encourage life in the city centre. Larger retail facilities tend to move to the periphery, killing trade for established city centre businesses, and parking/transport problems emerge when residents of these perimeter developments come into the city. An area devoted only to office space is dead in the evenings and weekends, and retail developments likewise have their “dead times”. A mix, where affordable housing is located on top of commercial (office and retail) premises, helps to keep the city centre and community alive and also helps to alleviate the housing shortage.
    There is no reason why leisure facilities should not also be a part of the mix. Though I personally favour a retail/business use for the Debenham’s premises, there is no reason why remodelling could not provide an imaginative facility where people could enjoy themselves, alongside residential and commercial space. However, parking might be an issue.
    Having said all this, the more views such as yours that are expressed, the better the council will be able to plan for the future needs of residents.

  3. #Simon. I agree. “Affordable” housing? Affordable for who? Certainly not for the many, but the few, especially in a such a prime location. And whilst there are no shortage of houses being built, they are not be built for local people but incomers to the area. But what there is a shortage of for local people is social housing, for those unable to ever get on the housing ladder, a largely forgotten section of society, who often have to rent privately and in Lichfield even this is beyond their means and inevitably they have to move out of the city they were born in. But it all falls on deaf ears.

  4. I am continually disappointed that the thinking for this site is the binary houses or retail. Why not use some imagination? Why not make it a completely flexible space that can serve many, many purposes? I’d love to see something like the Eden Project “bubbles” or an opening roof like centre court at Wimbledon. That way it could be used for markets, pop up festivals, open air/closed roof theatre, concerts, picnics, sport, etc etc even when there’s bad weather. Plant lots of trees – that is if we’re serious about the climate emergency. If it’s used for housing or more concrete it’s lost forever. Keep it as a wholly public space that’s used for all sorts of things that attract people to come into the City centre – I’m sure with a bit of imagination we can create something that would be special and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.

  5. Cllr – Hugh Ashton – thank you for responding. I understand the point you are making, but my concern is that there aren’t very many attractions in Lichfield centre, especially for young people. If we want Lichfield centre to draw people in, and help make the centre a vibrant place (which is of course good for the businesses there) then we need more than just houses/flats. We need attractions. What about a leisure complex for this site, i.e. cinema/bowling, or even a sealife centre, something along those lines. There are enough houses being built in and around Lichfield to more than meet the housing need. In fact, the Local Plan 2040 states that enough land has been provided in the Lichfield District to give us a 3,000 house buffer over the legal requirement for the area! We’re already losing far too much countryside for my liking and changing the nature of Lichfield forever, let’s at least save some prime city centre space for something interesting/exciting, otherwise another opportunity will be lost.

  6. Make it in to a park and performance space. Everyone responsible for the car dealership being demolished without anything to replace it could help with the manual labour for free in recognition of how they failed the city.

    Do not build more retail space on it. Lichfield doesn’t need more retail space. The old Marks and Spencer space has been vacant for years and the empty units have increased since.

  7. Cllr Hugh Ashton.. Your premise is a false one. There is no evidence to support your supposition that people who live in a city centre use the shops and entertainment more than those living in the suburbs or as visitors. Indeed, as Lichfield relies heavily on the visitor income, you need something to attract them here. The mantra that more houses are needed, affordable ones ? !, is no more than advertising for the building industry. People will not visit a city centre to see more poor quality housing. You represent a historic, cultural city, please give it the respect our legacy deserves. Leave something future generations will thank you for. You owe us all that.

  8. Joanne Grange – Well said! In addition to your suggestions I would like to see a showcase for public art, perhaps with a ‘living wall.’
    Even a market place for local food producers would be of benefit.
    Time for creative thought.

  9. This site is opposite the railway station, what a fantastic opportunity to create something special here, which will ‘wow’ visitors exiting the station and let them know they’ve arrived at the historic city of Lichfield. Please don’t just slap more bland housing on this site. Take the opportunity to create a unique entrance for our city!

  10. Joanne Grange I totally agree with your comments.
    Our household and many neighbours will now be working from home several days a week, permanently.
    I would love to see art, pop up shops and market for local produce, maybe picnic area with WiFi, so you can work outside in a positive environment. Your roof idea would be great!
    Your ideas are forward-thinking, would attract locals and visitors to the centre and innovative, so good luck with getting them through.

  11. I’d also add that, visitors arriving from City station could be greeted by a wonderful hub and the view down St John Street with its Georgian buildings, the hospital etc, is precious. Many cities and smaller places would love to make that a part of the charm of a new site, it would be lovely to incorporate that view. Many of us just drive or walk past it and don’t appreciate what’s there.

  12. What about putting the new leisure centre there instead of the proposed Stychbrook park. More accessible for people near to public transport in the town centre . We definitely do not need more housing, the roads cannot cope with growing population, no provision made for extra schools, doctors etc. There is not much to do in Lichfield, what happened to cinema that was proposed.

  13. Lichfield needs attractions to keep people coming back, brilliant location with the train station and bus terminal. Build a cinema, bowling, arcades or an indoor water park, something that brings more people to visit Lichfield and spend money that helps the local businesses. Just think it’s to easy to put more houses in and get the money off the builders and get more council tax.

  14. No more houses, please! The city centre is overpriced and dying, so many empty shops. Make it a vibrant space with something fun to do that appeals to teenagers and adults. Cinemas, bowling, climbing walls, activities of some sort that don’t only cater to young kids and retirees.

  15. Please can the Council use some imagination. Vast swathes of land around our City are being given over to housing development. The land opposite the station is not suitable for housing, the the air quality is too poor for healthy living there. In deed may even be too poor to meet statutory regulations. The empty shops in the Precinct prove that Lichfield, in the age of Amazon, need no more shops. A garden, open green and tree planted space is surely what this critical area should be. After all it is the view of the City centre visitors to Lichfield will be met by, lets make them think that they are coming to a place that is proud to be called The Mother of the Midlands.

  16. When are the Councillors going to take some notice of what the residents are saying, and give them something to be proud of in the City Centre, their is plenty of residential property of one sort or another with a stones throw of “Birmingham Road” site, I thought we had paid some consultants a lot of money, to come up with ideas, and yet in the above posts their are numerous ideas, but none of them contain any house, so does that not tell our representatives what is not wanted.
    I did predict many months ago that this is what would happen, and if it does go ahead, I predict the whole site will be given over to housing!!!!!!!!

  17. Sometimes the answer is staring at one’s face. Let’s build a Festival of Brexit. Patriots can cheer the return of roaming charges.
    Contributors might suggest other exhibits.

  18. Cllr Hugh Ashton, good idea in principle. However, the residents will not be youthful, they will not be investing their incomes in the facilities the city centre has to offer. Like all housing in the city centre, it will be elderly who daresay set a foot outside for being 5 metres from their slippers and 1930s armchairs. Lichfield died a couple of years ago when thousands of houses were started to be built. There is no recovery for this city.

  19. Needs to be open space plenty of grass and trees ? A lovely fountain and not a single house in site ? We lost the cricket fields to housing let’s replace it with a lovely open GREEN space so we can breath ?
    No more houses please but as always no listens on here so bit pointless posting

  20. The LDC caused the eyesore of the Birmingham Road site by their misguided development policy so they ought to give top priority to finding a rational solution after several years of blighting a key part of Lichfield.

  21. Please please no more housing. Like many other respondents I feel that the site should be a welcoming one to the city and not houses where residents will suffer with bad air quality. We need green and recreation. I’m an older person but would like to see more young people around – not more of the McCarthy and Stones. Enough!

  22. Janet how I would like to see a green area this side of the City and not build more houses As Councillor grange has said ” think outside the box”
    Also have you seen the state of the Bus Station road, one carriageway is sinking and breaking up, its been in use less than 12 months, who is going to pay for the repairs????? and when

  23. Kate, are you serious!!! with all the houses being built in Lichfield and you want more houses in the City Centre, irrespective of who they are for,Words really fail me,

  24. Building housing on the Friarsgate site would create another monstrosity opposite the City railway station. That would be a shame. A shame because for those arriving by train to visit perhaps for the first time it would not be a good impression. Yet another any town any place in Britain. A creative solution could be found but it requires imagination. Several comments by others have contained some imaginative ideas. The land area is large but not massive. Probably large enough for a combination of building and beautiful green space where people could sit outdoors. A building could house several floors with exhibition space, arts and craft workrooms for workshops/ courses to be held. Several flexible spaces within a building could provide a venue for events. A place for learning/ courses / workshops. The ground floor could have information about the city – posters – leaflets – doubling up a bit on Tourist Information in a very accessible location. Please no more housing in that space. Whole swathes of land once green are now full of boxes (houses), big boxes some of them, but boxes all the same. Lichfield has lost its special quality due to over intensification. Awful lack of vision and of taste. The Friarsgate site is too good not to be primarily for the benefit of all who live in Lichfield and visitors alike. The boards outside that currently cover up the unsightly mound of dirt left by the demolition – advertise and promote the city. Otherwise – if we ever get free of this darned Covid, a cinema in Lichfield would be an excellent facility. There’s a need for more public spaces for people to go to. To make use of facilities whatever they may be. We don’t need more housing, especially given the build up of traffic, and lack of GPs, schools etc.

  25. Something for the future, a EV charging station. All the big company’s are planning to build them we could make the city more environmentally friendly. Easy access into the centre and plant some trees on the way

  26. Professor Pineapple- “Let’s build a festival of Brexit” Eh! What on earth had the democratic process of Brexit got to do with a piece of wasteland on a busy corner in Lichfield? More irrelevant rubbish being sadly created by your fingertips on your computer keyboard methinks!

  27. @professor pineapple, so you’re suggesting it remains as it currently is then, I think Mr Scholl summed it up best, a wasteland.

  28. belleview: the council have recently opened a 50 space car park adjacent to the Bus Station on the police station site, what a wonderful chance to do as exactly as you suggest, did they NO, not a single charging point.

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