A packed Society meeting heard Steve Hill, Development Executive from the new Democratic, Development and Legal Services Department bring members up to date with the latest developments in Lichfield. An annual event, the meeting with a District Council senior officer never fails to disappoint. This year's meeting was no exception.
Steve brought us up to date with a number of important issues. Firstly, he touched on progress with the emerging Local; Development Framework. This new-style plan, setting out development proposals for Lichfield up to 2011 at least, goes to a public inquiry chaired by a government inspector in April. The report of the Inspector, anticipated in November, will be binding on the Council, an innovation in the new system.
Turning to Lichfield Venture, he explained that this was a new initiative of the Council, set up to examine the Council's land holdings with a view to commercially redeveloping these sites, in line with the planning policies of the Council. Led by Emrys Jones, the recently retired Head of Planning for Birmingham City Council, it sought to work with partners in the private sector to bring sites forward to development.
Some time was spent in looking at the Birmingham Road development. Lichfield was the smallest retailing centre in the West Midlands and the Regional Strategy recognised that some expansion was needed to meet the requirements of the residents There was 'retail leakage' from the City. Residents went shopping at Birmingham, Stafford, Tamworth and Sutton to meet their needs. The issue was how to integrate the new development in Birmingham Road with the City Centre in a way which would not prejudice its inherent character. The proposed development, of 200,000 square feet, was also to include residential development, some leisure facilities and improved bus facilities. Lichfield Venture was working with the Council's preferred partner, Harrisons, and draft proposals would be published for public comment at the end of February. Hopefully, a planning application would follow in late Spring.
The Council is also working on a 'City Centre Area Action Plan' as part of the Local Development Framework, City centre paving proposals (out soon for public comment) and bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a share of the money available to improve the parks. Watch this space.
The question and answer session was no less lively. We explored the complex issues of councillor probity on the planning committee, traffic ingress in the City centre, the mysteries of the Local Development Framework process and complimented the Council on the excellent new tourist interpretation Boards which have recently appeared. A final knotty problem which gave rise to much adverse debate, related to the planning application to replace a derelict bungalow on Walsall Road with new, higher residential development, thus potentially prejudicing Cathedral View.