Development Control Manager
Planning Application No: 11/00072/FULM - Land at Friary Car Park
Response from Lichfield Civic Society
The comments of the Society are as follows:
The Society is appalled at the re-emergence of this development for which we had very fundamental objections both in principle and in its manifestation in an altered form.
In principle the Society objects to the domination of this pleasant and important entrance to the City by an over-dominant development that is crude and inappropriate in its massing and also in the dated and uncongenial appearance of all elevations. The Officer's report states on the 2008 plan; "... I consider that the scheme will enhance the build environment of the Conservation Area and will protect the character and setting of the adjoining listed building" and that it will be "... a positive contribution to the historic environment". The Society believes that the opposite is the case and that the proposal is completely hostile to just those very factors represented by the modest scale and generally domestic quality of the City Centre. Rather the proposal more closely resembles the typical form of, say, the commonplace character of a provincial technical college of the 1960s. Even the allegedly domestic section on Swan Road is marred by arbitrary slab-like architectural features typical of the type and bears no relationship with the historic house nearby.
In general there is no satisfactory explanation of any clear demand for hotel rooms in Lichfield, especially of a 'motel' nature without any dining provision whatever. There might well be a restaurant in the block but this is dependent on its availability in the absence of a shop, there being no priority in the plan. Even a restaurant may not be open for a 'bed & breakfast' motel. The 'hotel' might be unviable on this score alone, seeing that other, similar, projects are in the planning chain at present and will be competitive to it. No one has explained why such large numbers of visitors are coming to Lichfield in the near future - in other words such a development is badly in need of a viable business plan.
The shop / restaurant is equally flawed in its concept as there seems to be no lack of eating places in the City Centre and the shopping profile seems to be very weak and getting weaker by the day.
There is a bizarre building type in the conjoining of retirement flats, hotel, dwellings and car park which seems to have highly incompatible elements that would involve both cultural challenges and practical considerations. There seems to be serious difficulties with the disturbance caused by all hours parking movement and elderly people's rest needs both day and night. The central parking area will have a noise funnel effect especially when cars accelerate up the necessary ramps.
This disturbance will also be magnified by the presence of an hotel and a restaurant or shop which presages a 24 hour usage.
Overall this is an outdated, clod-hopping design that is wholly inapropriate for an historic City Centre with crudely inappropriate massing and detail that is both monotonous in its fenestration yet unbalanced in its cosmetic blocking on the Swan Road domestic elevation with unsympathetic surface treatment. This proposal will only serve to degrade even further the attractive nature of the historic core with a third-rate development.
The Society feels that the scheme needs a total rethink both architecturally and conceptually.