A sign outside The Botanist
Picture: Charlie Simpson

Negativity around plans to invest in the new Lichfield cinema development will only breed more negativity, a councillor has said.

Cllr Richard Cox, cabinet member for community engagement, was among those to support the proposals for a £1.7million agreement which were agreed this week.

The money would be used to help attract The Botanist to the former Debenhams unit in the Three Spires shopping centre.

The Conservative representative for Armitage and Handsacre told a meeting of Lichfield District Council he was keen for people to see the positives of the investment in the scheme.

“I firmly believe that we have before us a proposal that has gone through due diligence and that can be recommended to provide a food and beverage outlet of the top order as I would call it.

“I also did my research on The Botanist and I have to say having not really understood who they were to begin with, I was completely compelled with the offer they give.

“I think this is only going to be good news for Lichield and the Lichfield District because those outlying villages will absolutely enjoy the ability to have that eat out cinema experience that many other places have and yet we haven’t.  I think the council has to have ambition. It obviously has to delvier something deliverable – I think this is.

“It is clearly something that we can do and will do – I think this is only good news.

“Negativity breeds negativity, so let’s have some positivity and get that ambition that this council has out there.”

Cllr Richard Cox

Cllr Cox’s party and ward colleague, Cllr Thomas Marshall, also threw his weight behind the project.

“If you look at the advice from Aspinall Verdi [town planning specialists] that the proposed financial terms and the wider regenerative benefits of attracting an operator of this calibre offset the initial investment of this council, that says everything we need to know about this project and the way forward we are proposing.

“I have not scrutinised this to any extent compared to the extent our officers and cabinet have, but my overview is that this is a wonderful opportunity for Lichfield, it really is.

“It is amalgamating two nationally-reputable companies of very high profile. To bring them together in this small city of Lichfield I think is propitious in the extreme and I welcome it with open arms.”

Cllr Thomas Marshall

Labour representative Cllr Paul Taylor said that he supported the investment but recognised that the council needed to do more to explain the reasoning behind the £1.7million deal and the benefits it would provide.

“We have an issue with messaging here as to how we talk to our residents in the district.

“A quick read of any of the comments on Lichfield Live relating to this development and particularly this further spend as it was referred to will tell you that our residents don’t understand what we’re doing.

“We are investing in our district. We’re investing in a scheme to bring money and shoppers to our district and that will benefit employers that are in that unit directly, it will benefit customers and surrounding businesses because we have greater footfall.

“Why, one of the comments said, if The Botanist is such a good business do we need to give them £1.7million? The fact is they know they’re a good business. They know that if they set up here it will bring more people and therefore we can charge higher rents on units around it. That is why they demand £1.7million.

“I am not supporting a £1.7million spend on fixtures and fittings – I am supporting a £1.7million investment in bringing more trade to the area and improving jobs and the economy.”

Cllr Paul Taylor

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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28 days ago

I still don’t think they have explained why the 1.7 million?? Am I missing something?? Feels like they are saying put up and shut up and us silly people should do as we are told as it is in our best interest. Boasting of raising rents in surrounding units sounds great but what about those already in situ, should they be worried? Personally I don’t think we will be able to afford this new cinema and push eatery so glad my council tax is helping to fund other’s enjoyment. I will sleep better at night!

Scott Armstrong
28 days ago

Interesting that Cllr Marshall has so much faith in anything to do with the Botanist. His enthusiasm for following the science is not usually so great.

28 days ago

People from outlying villages don’t go into town in the evening and another eating establishment won’t alter that. Reason being other than in a car there’s no means of getting there or back

28 days ago

Whilst I agree with the sentiment here, I fear Cllr Cox may be wasting breath he may need later in life.

Those who are already positive about this development (myself included) need no persuading.

Those who are negative (perhaps with one or two exceptions) will remain so, regardless of studies or expert analysis indicating a high likelihood of success.

I predict many negative responses on here.

Let’s get behind the project and back it.

Steven Norman
28 days ago

Residents can see the information that councillors have seen on the Council’s website for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on the 3rd of April. I even extended the time, under Standing Orders, to allow further scrutiny of the extra funding required for the food and beverage outlet Unfortunately Cllr Ray helped spend 41 minutes discussing the Padel Tennis report leaving less time for what most us thought was the main item on the agenda. Especially as this matter was actually agreed in February last year!

The reason for the extra £1.7m was further discussed at Cabinet on the 9th of April. Even more detailed information was given for Full Council on the 16th because councillors had asked for it and the Chief Executive and Leader have been keen to provide as much information as possible to members. This can be seen at agenda item 15 and I would suggest most answers to questions commentators have raised can be found there. Email you local councillor if you have others.

Doug Less
28 days ago

@Mike…..you could always get a taxi or an Uber or drive your own car? I assume you chose to live in a village and aren’t being held there against your will? Whats stopping you moving into one of the many lovely new retirement properties recently built in centre of town?

I think Botanist will be a success and will draw people in to town more often and for longer. The knock on effect of that will surely be better a better, more varied and busier hospitality economy.

28 days ago

A question to those who seem to believe positive thoughts trump economic reality. What happens if I don’t think positive thoughts? Does a fairy die?

Love Lichfield
28 days ago

It’s rather concerning seeing the chair of Overview and Scrutiny who’s responsible for timekeeping and agenda blaming others for the timekeeping and agenda? Does he not understand his role?

Shame he couldn’t allocate more time to scrutinise £1.7m of our taxpayers money. I think the least he owes the residents of Lichfield is proper scrutiny of how the council use our money!

27 days ago

I have no affiliation with the council or indeed the political party running it, but am really excited about this. It’s not a huge amount of money in the context of Council budgets and the ambition shown is great. It’s important that towns renew over time and given the considerable population growth over recent years I’m optimistic this transformational scheme will be a success. I haven’t seen it said elsewhere, but thank you to everyone involved.

27 days ago

@ProfessorPineapple, if you don’t believe that being constantly negative has no impact on behaviours, thereby influencing economic activity, then you are indeed living with the fairies. Only recently it was said that the media’s constant down-talking of the British economy had made recession more likely. The more we all keep telling people Lichfield is bad, there’s nothing here, don’t bother visiting etc, the more Lichfield will suffer.

27 days ago

Precisely where does this £1.7M inducement end up? On the Botanist Parent Co A/C’s as asset? or ???

Chris Harris
26 days ago

@Steven Norman, I’ve gad a look at the minutes and attached docs. In the sensitivity analysis where are the results fior the scenario where there is negative grow? Did the scrutiny Committee ask that question or are we looking at confirmation bias again?

Carl Sholl
25 days ago

Cllr Steven Norman suggests looking on the Council website for answers, but this is what you find for the meeting on 3 Apr 2024:
14. Securing An Anchor Food & Beverage Tenant For The Cinema Complex (part confidential)

(NB. There is no item 15.) No information at all for us plebs. The Council is not being open about what is going on and why they are giving over £10 million our money to commercial businesses. I have also emailed my local Councillors twice on the matter of the Birmingham Road site and had no responses at all.

Ian Jones
25 days ago

Having read the council papers, it is clear to me that the inducement is not a payment to the botanist. It is allocated money to get the building setup ready for the botanist to come, for example creating the terrace on the roof that will look over the entire city. These appear to be enhancements to a building that the council now own, thus increasing the value. Then there is the period the botanist has to pay rent for, it was stated in the council meeting this would be paid back within 10-12 years. to me, given the extra draw, thats enough of safe investment. I think people are getting wound up by what is a big number, but they are not doing the harder bit which is to analyse the paybacks. I am glad this is happening, it will enhance our City. It’s also much bette than the council doing nothing!

25 days ago

@ Ian Jones… It is not enough to simply repay a debt in a given time, you have to include its potential income. Otherwise inflation will devalue its worth. One point seven million invested at 5% compound interest over ten years would yield Two point eight million. I somehow suspect this will not be achieved.

25 days ago

In December 2023, Council considered and approved a recommendation from Cabinet following a request from Evolve Estates / Rookman Properties that a Put and Call (buy-out) clause be included into the LLP agreement. This inclusion in the LLP agreement enables Evolve Estates / Rookman Properties to divest themselves of their shareholding in the LLP 2 years after practical completion of the development. For that reason only, Evolve Estates / Rookman Properties has said it would not be willing to fund any part of the capital contribution proposed by the tenant.

If I am reading this correctly. Two years after practical completion. Evolve will drop out and the council will fully take over the site and the contract. For payment of an extra £3.5 million.

I have never known any commercial organisation drop out of a deal that is going to make them money.

There does not appear to be any commercial sense. Everyman and The Botanist are both millions in debt and posting a yearly loss.