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.’
Cllr Mike Wilcox, Leader of Lichfield District Council, has been nominated for the prestigious Lichfield Literature Festival Best Fiction award for his series of Friarsgate development press releases.
Festival director Jennifer Mears commented:
‘Cllr Wilcox has built up an impressive body of work over the years with the publication of his imaginative “Friarsgate Saga” press releases.
‘The series is set in Lichfield but in a parallel universe where a major redevelopment of the city centre actually takes place. The quality of the writing is so high that many members of the public believe that one day soon construction work will actually begin and Lichfield will have a new shopping centre complete with leisure facilities.’
The Wilcox Friargate Saga is supported by fictional social media coverage and a full planning application has even been submitted and granted based on detailed plans, artist’s impressions and scale Lego models of the final offering.
Ms Mears continued:
‘The lavish landscape that Cllr Wilcox has conjured up in words is comparable to Tolkien’s Middle Earth and George RR Martin’s Westeros, detailed and utterly believable but delusional nonetheless.’
Continuing the illusion, local residents have been excited to see some on-site. “engineering” activity. Lichfield amateur cyclist Paul Mycock was fixing a blow-out when the workmen arrived this week, he said:
‘I can’t believe it, work has actually started on our new shopping centre with restaurants, multi-screen cinema and luxury marina. It’s only a matter of time surely before hordes of wildebeest will be seen sweeping majestically down Birmingham Road.
‘Holes are being drilled in the Ford dealership car park and the bus station, actual real holes are being drilled with real drills, up to 16 holes I’m told. This means it’s really real, it really is really happening after all these years of hurt.’
Cllr Wilcox refused to comment on the Best Fiction nomination but did say:
‘To you, to me. U + I are meant to be.’
Lichfield Literature Festival takes place between 1 – 5 March 2017
Following the recent submission of a full planning application, the Friarsgate shopping centre redevelopment has come a step closer on the announcement that Lego is reversing its policy on bulk purchases and will no longer ask customers what they want to use the bricks for.
The U-turn follows a recent controversy involving Chinese artist Ai Weiwei where Lego was accused of censorship when it refused to sell bricks directly to him.
The company said its policy was to reject bulk requests if it believed that the resulting construction could tarnish its image.
Lego spokesman Roar Rude Trangbæk explained:
‘When we were approached by Lichfield developers with a preliminary enquiry as to the availability of our building materials were were initially reluctant to agree. Many other recent constructions in and around Lichfield have been based on our design concepts and incorporated our bricks. We are aware that this has aroused criticism locally and we feared a backlash.’
Now, following the Ai case, Lego has stated that they will no longer question customers as to the “thematic purpose” of their project.
Lichfield District Council leader Mike Wilcox commented:
‘We are delighted with Lego’s decision. This will mean that the design of new city centre will sympathetically compliment our other historic buildings such as the Friary Car Park Apartments, the Premier Inn and not forgetting the Garrick Theatre.
‘And we can now cancel the proposed confiscation of lego bricks from the orphans of Burntwood and North Lichfield.’
Dean of Lichfield Cathedral The Very Very Reverend Friend of Fabricant Adrian Dorber was equally delighted, he said:
‘I am delighted that Lego is onboard. With the ease of modular construction this will mean that the height of the new buildings can be increased so as to completely block all lines of sight to Lichfield’s spires on most approaches to the city.’
Praise has also come from Orchard Street Investments, owner of the existing Three Spires Shopping centre, a spokesman commented:
‘We are equally delighted, with such thoughtful design input into the new build we are confident that this can only serve to increase the footfall in the direction of Three Spires.’
Anyone who wishes to comment on the development proposals can do so at http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk