Action needed on aborted £50m Lichfield Friarsgate development
A city council has been urged to 'step up a notch' to find a solution following a failed £50 million shopping development.
The Friarsgate project in Lichfield was scrapped after more than a decade of planning – leaving taxpayers with a £7million bill for work that had already been carried out.
The decision not to progress, which was announced earlier this month, came after developers U&I failed to source private funding for the scheme and council bosses opted not to stump up the money to fill the void.
Lichfield's Tory MP Michael Fabricant said that although the city council could not be held responsible for the failed project, it was down to council bosses to find an immediate solution.
“While the council cannot be blamed for developers U&I’s inability to find commercial funding for the Friarsgate project, it will be the council to blame if it now doesn’t step up a notch to initiate immediate remedial works and a embark on a realistic plan for the future," he said.
“The council was quite right not to stump up £50 million of council tax payers’ money to replace private finance which U&I were unable to raise. But the council now immediately needs to tackle the fall out in two distinct phases.”
Mr Fabricant called for the grey hoardings surrounding the old garage site on the corner of St John Street and Birmingham Road to be removed. "They are an unwelcome eyesore," he said.
He said the authority then needs to consider its future plans for the land that was reacquired for the scheme.
“A realistic combination of housing with fewer shops and a cinema built in a harmonious style which reflects a Cathedral City would be far more in keeping with the concrete block house mentality of U&I’s proposals," he added.
"I know that councillors are already beginning to think along these lines.
“If the council acts swiftly in announcing both its short term and longer term plans, the collapse of Friarsgate will not be a calamity.
"Instead it will be the saving of the city from what I feared would be an unattractive development. There is now an exciting opportunity to use the building land creatively and with a realistic chance of raising private finance.
“But for all this to happen, both the council – and, equally as importantly, the officers who work for the council – will have to act swiftly and imaginatively and not be chained by self-doubt and caution.
"I will help in any way I can to ensure that this happens.”
As part of the project, the Tempest Ford site on St John Street was levelled and houses in Frog Lane were demolished, but the search for a development partner to bankroll Friarsgate was to prove fruitless.