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Lichfield, Tamworth and Burton Liberal Democrats

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Paul Ray comments on the vacant Friarsgate site and the opportunities it presents for useful redevelopment

March 9, 2019 5:08 PM
By Cllr Paul Ray

Where should the Friarsgate project go next? The Lib Dem vision

The Friarsgate saga continues - and will continue, as long as the gaping empty space where the car dealership used to stand, and the empty former police station building, not to mention the not-so-gracefully ageing bus station, continue to greet visitors to Lichfield.

A cross-party working group has been set up to examine options for the long-term development of the site, with £7 million having been spent so far on this failed project. Although the Conservatives claim that £4.5 million of this £7 million is an investment in land and therefore still may be somehow recouped (assuming that the land will retain its value over the coming years), this still leaves £2.5 million paid in legal and consultancy fees, etc, which the Lichfield and Burntwood communities will never see again.

The initial meeting of this cross-party working group has met with various positive ideas being contributed.

Lib Dem Councillor Paul Ray has fed in the Lib Dem vision for the Friarsgate site. Paul Ray said "Our vision has been well received from the consultations we have had with the local community.

The Lib Dem vision includes working with housing associations to provide family-centric housing as a key part of the development, thereby infusing new life and energy into the centre of the city. We must not just allow the housing on this site to be more housing mainly for the retired and high-end earners.

We propose that a leisure centre complex near the transportation hubs would benefit all of the Lichfield district.

A ticking bomb in Lichfield is what's going to happen to the Friary Leisure Centre. This will need a full refurb soon. So we should explore the opportunity of using the new Friarsgate scheme to improve the leisure centre facilities in Lichfield. We'd propose a gym and pool being built on the site.

We are living in times when the importance of healthy living and an active lifestyle are rightly being heavily promoted. So a new publicly funded leisure facility right in the centre of Lichfield would be a really positive message to the community and would make these facilities very accessible.

We certainly need an improved and wider range of leisure facilities in the Lichfield District. A cinema was part of the original plans and we strongly support that element.

Also, with the Neighbourhood Plan promoting Lichfield as a City of Festivals, we can expect more visitors as the number of these events increases. What better place than Friarsgate, where visitors coming by train, bus or coach first catch sight of the city, to place a museum, tourist centre, or other heritage project, which might easily be funded by the National Lottery or similar?

It is important for the design of the new development to be created with taste and consideration for the history and architecture of the city. This does not mean putting up mock-Tudor or Georgian buildings and we must avoid the square concrete boxes which fill so many British town centres. We need to create a project to harmonise with the historic heritage that makes Lichfield what it is. Let us make sure that whatever we do with Frirasgate, we can be proud of it, and look at it without shuddering.

I look forward to providing ongoing input into this working group and then seeing action from the Conservatives on taking this project forward."

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