For a number of years Lichfield District Council has been working with developers, most recently U+I, to deliver a mixed-use development scheme on the Birmingham Road site.
A scheme called Friarsgate that featured a cinema, shops, restaurants and housing was designed and interest in the scheme was positive. That said, whilst key components, including land acquisition and lettings were in place to deliver Friarsgate, the council terminated the development agreement with U+I in June 2018, based on the fact that a private sector investor for the site could not be found.
In the absence of a private sector investor, Lichfield District Council considered funding Friarsgate. To do this would have required the council to take out a loan of nearly £50 million, yet the projected return on investment of public funds would have been very low, and such an investment could well have contravened the council’s procurement rules.
The proposal for the council to fund Friarsgate was considered by a joint Overview & Scrutiny committee in May 2018 and by Cabinet in June 2018. Full Council was told that both committees were of the view that the council should not take out such a loan. In making the decision, councillors noted the high level of borrowing, the limited return on investment, the risks in the retail and leisure market at the time, and concerns that the proposed scheme was not sustainable given the changing face of high streets nationwide.
Whilst the decision was incredibly disappointing for all involved, including the council, local businesses, partners and residents, as the landowner of the site, Lichfield District Council is now committed to delivering a new scheme that better meets the needs of our growing community and the changing face of today’s high streets – and will involve the local community, key partners, businesses and other stakeholders in creating the right solution for the future.
The site includes:
- The former garage site
- The bus station and bus station car park
- The police station
- The site of former housing next to the police station
- It may include the multi-storey car park, but that has yet to be determined