|The draft City Centre Development Strategy|
|Response by Lichfield Civic Society|
The principle of preparing and progressing a City Centre Development Strategy is welcomed and supported by Lichfield Civic Society. We commend those who have facilitated and secured this draft. Much of the content of the Consultation Draft is worthy of support, as is the notion of a "cohesive vision" for the future. However, there are a number of concerns which the Civic Society wish to raise and which should be considered further prior to finalisation of the Strategy.
Principal Concerns of the Civic Society
Other comments of the Civic Society on the visitor economy
2.1 This section gives an accurate summary of the situation
2.2 There is a detailed query as to whether some of the statistics presented relate to the whole of Lichfield District. Because of the scale of visitor numbers to locations other than within the City, but within the District, care is necessary in extrapolation of visitor numbers, visitor spending and jobs created to ensure accuracy is achieved.
Table 5 gives an indication of Lichfield's "under-performance" in attracting visitors.
4.1 It is agreed that both Lichfield Trent Valley and City stations are generally of poor quality in various respects, and not "welcoming" gateways to the City.
4.x In relation to Friarsgate, the Civic Society continues to have
concerns over elements of the proposal, including the design and
appearance, the adverse impact upon the setting of St John's Hospital,
the capacity and workability of the proposed bus station, and
viability of the scheme, particularly with the rise of e-shopping.
4.8. It is considered that overall the SWOT analysis provides a realistic assessment of the situation, with two provisos. Firstly, it does not record as a weakness the various environmental issues existing in the City Centre, such as the poor state of much of the "public realm", including paved surfaces and street furniture, the recent erosion of environmental quality through inappropriate new development and a poor pedestrianisation scheme. Firstly, in the pedestrian zone the lack of enforcement for through traffic which is not entitled lawfully to pass through needs to be addressed with the Police Commissioner. Secondly, there is a lack of any car parking strategy (including positive proposals for the large numbers of disabled badge holders and how the heavily used capacity of Bird Street car park would be replaced if the site is redeveloped) and plans for coach parking are in urgent need of progressing and implementing. Steps should be taken to ensure the civil enforcement activities are consistent with the strategic objectives and that overzealous/fund raising ticketing does not discourage visitors from returning.
5.1-5.3 The Overall aims, Vision, Brand and marketing points are supported by the Society. However, it is also considered that the Strategy should include stronger and more explicit support for speciality/niche and independent retailing ("distinctive shopping"), both to safeguard existing and attract additional outlets, since this would complement the character and ambitions of a heritage cathedral city compared with simply adding more multi-national outlets (which are present in virtually every town in the UK).
5.4 The same query is raised regarding the statistics as in relation to 2.2
SO 1. This is totally supported by the Civic Society, and particularly the point made regarding the need for "sensitive development control". However, there is a need for clarification of the proposals being made for Bird Street car park as a prime site in the City Centre. Currently the proposals are ambiguous.
If the site is to become a well-designed "people-place and event
venue" with limited scale speciality/niche retailing, this is welcomed
by the Civic Society. If it were to be treated principally as another
development site, this is not supported. The unique and special
location at the heart of the City adjacent to Minster Pool and the
Cathedral must be treated as "the jewel in the Crown" alongside the
Cathedral Close, Beacon Park and the Remembrance Gardens.
SO 2. The principles contained within this policy are supported, but more detail of certain elements will require consideration when available, and prior to implementation, e.g. St Mary's. The suggestions put forward in 2.4 to seek "distinctive retailing and catering" are supported. Within 2.5 the suggestion made for a hotel to be sited on Bird Street car park is not supported.
SO 3, SO 4 and SO 5 These proposals are generally supported.
Summary of Actions
The Table containing the list of Actions, Potential phasing and
Responsible agencies is very useful. However, how feasible and likely
is it that implementation will accord to the proposed phasing at a
time of severe financial stringency, affecting public bodies in
particular? It is to be hoped that the implementation and phasing can
One particular point of concern to the Civic Society - should the "new people-place for Bird Street car park" be classified as a high priority short term scheme when at present it is clearly in need of a great deal of preparation/consideration/consultation before being progressed. A scheme for such a critical site requires a high degree of sensitivity in formulation and development, and clearly should not be hurried through.
Concluding Views of the Civic Society
In the considered opinion of the Society the highest priority and most immediate phasing should be given to the following:
a. improvements to all aspects of the public realm in the City Centre,