Planning Developments in Lichfield

Our January meeting has become the traditional time for us to be visited by the Chief Planning Officer at the Council, Ian Thompson when he updates us on new developments in the City. This year he was again joined by Paul Ansell, his policy officer, who opened proceedings by explaining the state of play with the Council's work on replacing the District Plan with the new Local Development Framework.

The Council's new plan is required because of legislation introduced last year by the Government. The Council has to review the existing overall strategy for development in the City and back that by identifying land for housing, jobs, shopping and leisure, to be released up to 2011. The Plan itself will look even further forward to 2021, but has to be reviewed in about three years time (another government requirement) when a decision will need to be taken on what further land might be needed for development by 2021.

Some work on topics like the need for new housing had been the subject of consultation with the public last year. Land identified at that time at Shortbutts Lane and Rugeley Power Station (together with the Walsall Road and Chesterfield Road developments) is likely to be sufficient to meet the requirements placed on the Council. Meanwhile the land not in the Green Belt between London Road and Birmingham Road but protected from building development will continue to be protected with a view to considering if it might be needed in the next decade.

Paul explained that a new area for prestige offices had been identified on the edge of the Darwin Park development, close by the site of the proposed Waitrose supermarket. As far as shopping was concerned, everyone recognised that there was little opportunity to buy bulky goods like fridges and televisions in Lichfield. The Council would be suggesting that land on Eastern Avenue should be set aside in the new plan.

The Council plans to publish its draft plan for comments soon, with exhibitions running at the Guildhall on 26th and 27th February. That will not be the end, however, because the plan together with more detailed proposals for the City Centre and West Burntwood, will be the subject of a public inquiry chaired by a government inspector in mid 2006.

Ian's presentation looked at what the public had said that they wanted for Lichfield over the next few years. Preserving its unique character, increasing car parking and improving the 'public realm' came high on the list. The City Centre needed more shopping facilities; should become more of a centre for learning and enterprise; needed a more vibrant night time economy; an improved environment; and a more cohesive link between the tourist attractions and shopping facilities.

So what's planned? Ian took us through a comprehensive list of initiatives.

  • Birmingham Road Corner

    The Council's selected partner is S-Harrison. The scheme is planned to include shops, a cinema, a 90 bed hotel, 42 residential units, office space, 800 car park spaces and a new bus station. Much still remains to be done. Land needs to be acquired by the Council, the police station has to be relocated and detailed design work started. Work should be finished by 2009.

  • Lombard Street Car Park

    A new deck is planned this year for an extra 120 spaces.

  • Friary Outer Car Park

    Its frontage onto the Swan Link Road is reserved for offices. A multi-storey car park is planned for the middle of the site creating 200 more spaces. Residential development will be located on its periphery to mask the car park. A planning application is expected in 2005.

  • Parks

    The Heritage Lottery Fund has provided the Council with a grant of 50,000 to prepare a major application for money to improve Beacon Park, Minster and Stowe Pools. The first part of the bid has been made.

  • Garrick Square

    Design work on improvements to the street scene outside the Garrick Theatre is underway for implementation this year.

  • City Centre Enhancement Works

    Watch for proposals on the next stage of the City Centre repaving works this year. A consultation exercise is planned. 8,500 has been earmarked by the Council for the work.

  • Parking Enforcement

    Responsibility for this will transfer from the Police to the Council. Staffordshire County Council, who are leading on this have appointed consultants to advise on the best way forward. Target date for implementation is 2006.

The session finished with a question and answer session in which Ian and Paul dealt with questions on the Southern By-pass and its relationship to the proposals to reopen the canal, parking problems, the relocation of the police station and the problems of infill housing development in sensitive areas. All in all, this was an excellent meeting when council officers openly shared their thoughts with us. We look forward to their return next year.

Roger Hockney
January 2005