Lichfield’s planned shopping and leisure scheme Friarsgate has been axed after council chiefs voted against funding the development.
Friarsgate, which had been highly anticipated, could not attract a private backer to meet its £54million cost which left Lichfield District Council having to decide whether or not to fund the scheme itself.
The authority has come under considerable pressure with many citizens arguing that with retailers struggling, to proceed with the scheme now could be a costly mistake.
Councillor Mike Wilcox, Leader of Lichfield District Council, has today confirmed that on Tuesday Cabinet voted against funding Friarsgate.
He added that the final decision on funding will be made by Full Council later this month.
“When the Friarsgate development was first conceived the market was very different,” said Cllr Wilcox.
“We know the local community has wanted us to deliver the scheme and we’ve been working hard to bring it forward. Prior to the credit crunch and Brexit all signs were positive
“On May 30 members of our Economic Growth and Environment & Development Overview & Scrutiny Committees considered a proposal for the council to fund Friarsgate, which is an approach some other councils have taken to kick-start similar projects.
“Committee members debated the proposal, and recommended that the council should not fund the scheme.
“On June 12 Cabinet members subsequently voted that the council should not fund the scheme. The final decision will be made by Full Council which will meet on 26 June.”
Tom Edgerley, development director at U+I, which was working with the council on the project said: “U+I has been working hard, in partnership with Lichfield District Council, to progress the redevelopment of Friarsgate, which would bring an improved retail offer to Lichfield, boost the city centre and create new jobs.
“The scheme was granted planning consent in 2017 and U+I has spent recent months trying to secure funding. This has proven difficult, as during the lifetime of the project, market conditions have shifted and the retail industry is undergoing fundamental change.
“Despite approaching a number of sources and exploring a prudential solution with the council, we have not secured funding within the required timeframe set out by the Development Agreement and the scheme will not be progressing further.
“We, like many local people, are hugely disappointed that despite all the hard work to get to this stage, this promising development cannot be delivered.
“Despite the difficult market, we were encouraged that the scheme had already attracted an array of potential tenants and would to thank everyone for their interest in the scheme and Lichfield.”