|Lichfield's Development and Planning Strategy|
Our first speaker meeting each year sees a representative of the District Council coming to update us on planning matters. This year was no exception when the Society was pleased to welcome David Smith, Leader of the Council, to speak to a well attended meeting on both the City's and the wider District's planning challenges. Predictably, we received an upbeat presentation on the scale of public and private investment in the area and the plans for a wide range of initiatives, from the Cathedral 'makeover' to the refurbishment of our Parks. Some surprising facts emerged. The top four tourist attractions in the District are, in order, Drayton Manor Park (no surprise there), the National Memorial Arboretum, the Garrick (are resident theatre-goers tourists you may ask) and the Cathedral. Together, they account for 2.5 m visitors annually. Continuing on an upbeat note, David told us that per head of population, there are more business starts in he District than anywhere else in the U K. That came as a definite surprise to many listeners. He raised concern that, in retailing, of a projected spend by the District residents by 2012 of £226m, only 30% would be spent in the District; hence the need to expand shopping facilities locally. Exciting plans were also afoot to work with partners Birmingham University to provide an upgraded Innovation Centre at Chasewater - watch this space!
Central to the presentation and subsequent debate was the issue of future plans for housing in Lichfield. It was explained to us that the draft Regional Strategy required that 7000 houses should be built in the District over a 20 year period (some would say nearer 8000). It appears that the District Council will not be challenging this figure at the forthcoming public inquiry - despite the substantial amount of housing built and committed through planning permissions over the past few years. The identification of sites for this scale of development was already proceeding through the preparation of a new planning vehicle - the Local Development Framework. Concerns were raised by the audience over the threats to the Green Belt around Lichfield which David Smith did little to assuage. He was adamant that the Framework would not propose development of a new settlement at Fradley (as opposed to the current proposals at Curborough) because of the pressures that this would put on the A38. Some in the audience saw this as a way of diverting housing pressures from the City and providing Fradley with social facilities. The audience was left with continuing concerns that the City could be faced with the prospect of yet more residential development girdling its historic core and the consequent threat that it could be swamped by suburbia.