Plans for a luxury aqua park complex in the centre of Lichfield have emerged following the announcement that Friary Grange Leisure Centre is to close in April 2020.
Unicorn and Imaginary (U+I Group plc), the development partner behind the defunct Friarsgate project, have released plans for the new swimming pool facility to be located on the current B&M Bird Street car park.
Provisionally called Friary Minster PoolWorld, the scheme has been welcomed by local residents who will be affected by the closure of the Friary Grange pool next year.
Dimbles bather Paul Mycock said:
‘It’s great news that this imaginary water world will soon be within walking distance of ‘spoons. I was expecting to have to take the kids to Stowe Pool for a bath next summer, but it does get a bit crowded in there in the hot weather. And it’s not very convenient for the air ambulance.’
U+I director and former District Council leader Rich Richman commented:
‘We welcome the opportunity to partner Lichfield District Council again in another flagship development in the city. Our shareholders were delighted with the risk-free profits generated by our involvement with Friarsgate.
‘The decision to turn Friarsgate into a car park and to redevelop the former B&M store and car park will be announced by the Council in September followed by a public consultation in November.’
B&M merchandise display organiser Brittney Singleton,19, has mixed feelings, she said:
‘I have mixed feelings. I’ll love to spend an afternoon with my five kids on the water slides but I will lose my job when the store closes. I’ve been offered a position at the brand new store on Eastern Avenue but the commute from Netherstowe three days a week would kill me.’
B&M spokesman Simon Aurora insisted that the Market Street store will not be closing despite the launch of the new store, he said:
‘The Market Street store is not closing.
‘Well not until Lichfield District Council increases its offer for our lease. That will be announced in September.’
The leader of Lichfield District Council, Cllr Mike Wilcox has confirmed that Friarsgate developer U+I has submitted new plans for the long-awaited city centre scheme.
From behind closed doors Cllr Cocks admitted:
‘The original redevelopment proposal for ten junk food outlets, 15 coffee houses, 26 charity shops, 82 apartments, 11 townhouses, a multi-screen cinema, theme park and a marina linking to the restored Lichfield & Hatherton canal has proven to be undeliverable.
‘A “challenging funding market” has meant that no one is prepared to invest in such a load of bollocks.’
Developer U+I claim to be committed to revitalising the gateway to the city. Deputy Chief executive Richard Upton was still at primary school when he came up with the original proposals. He said:
‘I always loved Lego as a kid and built my own Lichfield city centre out of plastic bricks in my bedroom. But now I am older and have to put away childish fantasies for a more pragmatic solution.’
Details are still being worked out but, in a statement prepared by Mr Upton, Cllr Cocks read:
‘We have a new vision for this great city – a car showroom and vehicle hire facility on the corner of Birmingham Road and a new bus station between the showroom and Debenhams with retail kiosks selling and hiring cycles.’
Mr Upton is sure that funding will be forthcoming for such an innovative proposal. Taking time out from opening other new retail developments up and down the country, he said:
‘This plan will deliver the perfect fusion of the desire of Lichfield’s Council tax payers for superior shopping facilities with the means of transport to access such facilities, by car or coach it’s just ten minutes down the road to Ventura Retail Park in Tamworth.
‘And if you look closely you’ll notice a number of significant milestones on the way.’
Addressing concerns that the abandonment of the original proposals could open the door to a more lucrative residential development on the Friarsgate site Cllr Crocks was told to comment:
‘Such a suggestion is ridiculous, as everyone knows that lucrative residential development is planned for the Bird Street car park.’
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.’
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.
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