The Friarsgate scheme has received a boost after Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant confirmed that he has successfully negotiated a pre-let agreement with Marks and Spencer to relocate the retailer to the new Lichfield city centre redevelopment.
Mr Fabricant commented:
‘I am delighted to announce that I have secured the future of the shopping centre redevelopment. The scheme had been stagnating for over a decade in the hands of our low-functioning local councillors, I really had no alternative but to step in to salvage the project.
‘I have been in close contact with the CEO’s of developer U+I Group and M&S over the last few months. Since I became involved at the very highest level, as only I could do to be honest, this successful outcome was inevitable.’
The news follows confirmation that Mr Fabricant has also solved another long delayed project, the Burntwood Health Centre.
The Lichfield member said:
‘Yes, I’ve been very busy working for the good of my constituents. Not only have I saved Friarsgate but the poor and sick of Burntwood will now get a new Health Centre as a direct result of my intervention at the very highest level.’
‘It will be open within three years. Sorted. Next!
‘Next? Now there’s an idea. Andy, do you have Adam Wolfson’s number?’
Former Cllr Steve Norman was unavailable for comment, he said:
‘Why doesn’t Fabricant just take his high level CEO retail contacts and stick them up his asre.’
Former Burntwood Town Council leader Cllr Richard Mosson has admitted that it was probably a mistake for the Council to commit local taxpayers to a property development vanity project.
The Council offices moved from it’s convenient cost-effective location at Burntwood library to the Old Mining College Centre in 2015. Cllr Mosson said:
‘It was a great opportunity, what could possibly go wrong, signing up to a 35 year full repairing lease of a dilapidated building?’
A meeting of the Town Council’s policy and resources committee last week to considered plans to address the state of the building, including replacement of wooden framed sash windows at a cost of £20,000 and the relaying of floors. The total cost of repairs and refurbishments is currently estimated at over £55,000.
Paul Mycock, an officer in Lichfield District Council’s Legal, Property and Democratic Services department did not want to be identified. He said:
‘I can barely contain myself,’ he laughed, ‘even with the District Council’s resources and proven track record in successful property development projects, we could never make the Old Mining College commercially viable. But we were saddled with a 35 year full repairing lease from the landlord, Staffordshire County Council. We told them we wanted to surrender the lease and they said “fcuk off”.
‘Thinking that maybe they had been a little harsh, the CC came back to us to say that they would take a surrender but only if we could find some other mug to take it on on the same debilitating terms.
‘There was a knock on the door and who should be there but former Burntwood Town Councillor Steve Norman. And the rest, as they say, is history.’
The Town Council meeting considered various solutions to the dilemma. Cllr Sue Woodward suggested approaching the producers of DIY SOS or the Restoration Project. Unelected leader of the Council “Cllr” Norman Baker responded:
‘Don’t be so ridiculous Sue, after all it was you and your husband that got us into this mess. No, what I propose is that we spent £5,000 on flowers and a new lawn and introduce a mini crazy golf course. And we should invest in photo’s of Town Council Chairmen past and present to adorn the stairway and the charge local taxpayers who want to view. We could announce these innovative plans on a new £1,000 message board.
‘Sorted. Now where’s my cab? Has anyone seen Brian? The old fool.’
The design of Lichfield’s fabled Friarsgate shopping centre development may be hopelessly dated by the time it is completed claims a local historian.
Amateur time-detective Caitlin Gonzalez has expressed concerns that the plans for Lichfield’s cutting edge retail offer will be outdated by the time that the development emerges Phoenix-like from the ashes of the Conservative District Council dreams. Mrs Gonzalez said:
‘I’ve been going through the local history archives hoping to find a photograph or drawing of a tree root that resembles a goblin’s todger, but to my delight I happened across the original planning application for the fabled Friarsgate Shopping centre dating back to 1962.’
The long awaited City centre regeneration has been derailed on many occasions by external events well beyond the control of the District Council, claims current Council leader Mike Wiltcox. He said:
‘The original plans were put on hold in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis and again in 1963 as a mark of respect for JFK. The Space Race in the ‘60’s meant that all public funding for Lichfield was diverted into the effort to land Man on the Moon before the end of the decade. And so it went on, none of the delays have been the fault of the Council.’
Further delays are now expected as the Council consider putting back three strategically important milestones in the optimistically-named Development Agreement.
As part of the Lichfield Festival the Council has commissioned local sculptor and artist Peter Walker to create three commemorative milestones. The artist commented:
‘These milestones will be symbolic and will be a visual demonstration of the Council’s commitment to keeping the Friarsgate project on the road to success. I can reveal that the first one called “Lichfield 4 miles”, originally located on the A51 at Packington will now be reimagined and installed on the A5 at Atherstone. Yes, we’re on the right road but it may take longer than expected.’
The Council declined to reveal the proposed locations of the two remaining milestones as this was commercially sensitive and could have an impact on the financial viability of the Council.
(Friarsgate design courtesy of the Francis Frith collection )
Richard Upton, Deputy CEO of Friarsgate developer U+I Group, has confirmed that he will be taking up the post of Leader of the Council effective from 1 August 2017. Mr Upton said:
‘I am delighted to accept my generous demand of the Council and I’m looking forward to taking up my new post on 1 August. I will be continuing in my role as Deputy CEO of U+I as I understand that the position of Leader traditionally entails the expenditure of very little time, talent or effort.’
Outgoing Leader Cllr Mike Wiltcox commented:
‘I am delighted that Richard has decided to accept his offer to sack me as Leader, although I will continue to fulfill my role as Conservative councillor for Fradley as this also entails the expenditure of very little time, talent or effort.’
Richard Dicking, Lichfield’s strategic director of democratic, development and legal added:
‘Mr Upton has appointed the best man for the job. This will complete U+I’s takeover of all Council business and ensure the smooth running of the Cabinet and all Committees. We will no longer have to waste time submitting Council meeting Agendas to U+I’s “Commercial Sensitivity and Financial Viability Committee” for prior approval. Richard Upton will exercise delegated powers from U+I to control all aspects of Lichfield business.’
There has been increasing disquiet at the number of occasions where the public has been excluded from parts of Council meetings on the grounds of “commercial sensitivity”. Commentators have been left wondering what can possibly be commercially sensitive about Council car parking charges or the location of the Tourist Information office.
Mr Upton said:
‘I can’t comment on individual agenda items that have been discussed in secret, other than to say that they related to commercially sensitive matters for U+I that could affect the financial viability of U+I.
‘However I will be addressing these concerns directly as soon as I take office.
‘In future there will be no prior publication of Agendas or briefing notes, all Council meetings will be held in secret and no minutes will be kept. Now fuck off out of my office.’
LibDem Cllr Paul Ray welcomed the announcement, he said:
‘If all Council business is conducted in camera, as we lawyers like to say, that’ll give me the perfect excuse not to attend any meetings. No change there then at least.’
Five Spires Live has not bothered to contact anyone for comment.
The developer of Lichfield’s virtual Friarsgate shopping centre, U+I (Development Securities), claims that the redundancy of 24 workers at the Tempest Ford dealership evidences that a start on site has “materially commenced” for planning purposes.
Failure to demonstrate that a positive start has been made on the development by 27 May 2017 will trigger a reassessment of the financial viability of excluding affordable housing from the regeneration scheme.
A spokesman for U+I said:
‘Affordable housing is a curse on developer profit. By forcing the District Council to serve notice to quit on Tempest Ford under the terms of the development agreement we are able to avoid any inconvenient social housing issues being raised again.’
Burntwood mother of five under 4 year-olds Pauline Mycock has worked at Tempest Ford for the past 10 years, she said:
‘I can’t believe it, we were all given our redundancy notices today. How are we going to manage to feed our kids and pay our mortgages? We’ll probably be repossessed and have look to social housing. Oh, hang on a minute…’
Tempest Ford’s managing director Brian Carruthers says the decision by Lichfield District Council and its puppeteer Development Securities to require vacant possession by July 23 has come as a complete shock to him, he said:
‘This has come as a complete shock to me, the dealership has nowhere to go and therefore it has been forced to close. I’d only been given 10 years notice to make alternative arrangements, it’s a bloody disgrace.’
On the brighter side Mr Carruthers has announced a closing down sale:
‘I’m offering great staff discounts on used cars at the moment as part of our redundancy package. And for the more entrepreneurial any offers for my interest in the former Naturana site on Eastern Avenue would be most welcome.’
Dick King, director of Place and Community at Lichfield District Council, said:
‘Friarsgate is a complex £70 million scheme that will bring hundreds of new jobs to the city. We have now served notice to quit on Tempest Ford, laid waste the gateway to the City and thrown 24 citizens on the scrap heap in order to facilitate major works starting on virtual Friarsgate in September. I have accepted that this amounts to a “material start on site” by U+I for planning purposes.
‘But if something doesn’t start coming out of the ground in September then frankly we’re all fckd.’
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant welcomed PM Theresa May’s announcement that the Labour Party will be consigned to history in time for the summer recess.
Mr Fabricant who was preparing to retire in 2020 now welcomes the opportunity to earn over £76,000 pa plus expenses for an additional two years. He said:
‘I welcome the PM’s bold announcement that was endorsed by a huge majority vote in the Commons. This will undoubtedly secure my place in Lichfield life for another five years. My position is unassailable and no opponent stands a chance, so I say don’t waste your £500 on the deposit, donate it to Lichfield Cathedral and help to keep my rent down.’
Cowed by the colossal Member, only one opponent has so far declared his candidacy. Lib Dem Paul Ray, a long-time loser in the public popularity stakes having chosen to be both a lawyer and a banking specialist, is an early tosser, his hat landing firmly in the ring. Mr Ray, known in District Council circles as X-Ray due to his level of invisibility at Council meetings, said:
The identity of the Labour candidate remains uncertain. Labour’s Mr Chris Whoishey who stood in the 2015 general election refused to be drawn, blaming satnav malfunctions for being unable to visit the constituency from his home somewhere in the Black Country. He said:
District councillor Sue Woodward has been inundated with emails, texts and tweets urging her to stand as Labour’s candidate. Despite being recently distracted by an irritating burning bush on Gentleshaw Common Mrs Norman has found time to treat herself to a makeover and has become a fluent French speaker. She said:
‘Le Fabricunt! Il est un tas de merde!’
Having yet to be formally selected by his local constituency party, Mr Fabricant expressed concerns about the outcome of the West Midlands Mayoral election on 4 May where his long time chum Andy Street is the Conservative candidate. Mr Fabricant said:
‘The BBC hustings on Thursday evening showed the fraudster Simone Simone to be head and shoulders above the diminutive Andy despite Andy being way ahead on my poll.
‘If Andy doesn’t get elected on 4 May he’ll be unemployed and I know he’s had his eye on my seat for years.’
Staffordshire Police is appealing for the help of the public to trace a District Council from Lichfield.
Lichfield District Council was last seen functioning in the Lichfield area in the run up to local and parliamentary elections in May 2015. It was reported missing to Staffordshire Police after it failed to attend the annual meeting with Bromford Housing Association on February 28.
Former Council leader Cllr. Mike Wilcox said:
‘I have been concerned about the Council’s erratic behaviour for some time, it’s not the first time that it’s gone missing. Like any loving parent I’ve ranted and raved when it’s gone AWOL but it makes no difference. I’ve tried emailing and making appeals on local and social media, but nothing.’
Equally concerned is Lichfield Chain Gang chairman Cllr. Sir Kenneth Dodd, he said:
‘I was only going to one civic event this year in my council tax payers’ chauffeur driven limousine, imagine my disappointment when the Council snubbed the event. It is with huge regret and a heavy heart that my one and only civic event of the year has had to be cancelled.’
Cllr. Dodd added that he still hoped to raise some money for Free Spirit charity by raffling off prizes that had already been donated.
‘I’m literally flogging a dead horse,’ he exclaimed.
Investigating officer Insp Paul Mycock, based at Lichfield’s virtual reality police station, said:
‘If anyone has seen Lichfield District Council, or has any information which they think could help us to find it, I would urge them to contact us as soon as possible.
‘LDC, if you see this appeal, please get in touch to let us know that you are safe and well.’
The Local Government Boundary Commission was already considering to proposals to reduce the number of district councillors from 47 to 13 to reflect the pathetic extent of councillor engagement in representing their constituents.
FiveSpiresLive has not attempted to contact anyone for comment.