Current Planning in Lichfield

The Society's meeting on 23rd September, held in the Guild Room in anticipation of increased attendance, saw the welcome return of Mr John Colburn, the District Council's Director of Planning.

Describing planning as a "visionary activity" Mr Colburn conceded that no commonly shared vision exists, but the Local Plan does exist and it was about this that he talked at some length. He drew attention to the fact that, during the Public Inquiry, developers had pressed their proposals for additional building sites to the north, south and west of the City. The responsibility of the Inspector to consider and perhaps recommend either additions to or deletions from the Local Plan meant that decisions relating to these and other proposals would have to await the publication of his report - which was expected to be received towards the end of the year.

Speaking of the City as it is, Mr Colburn stated that there are between 500 and 600 listed buildings whose owners needed encouragement for their continued maintenance. Funding from the European Community and from English Heritage, through the District Council, provided sufficient to upgrade only 12 to 15 buildings a year.

Local employment figures were a cause for concern and there exists a great need to create local jobs. This is surely a sentiment with which none would disagree, but in the light of recent national job-loss figures it is a problem that is unlikely to have a local solution.

During our question time it was reported that no council houses had been built since those in Valley Lane had been completed and that 40 to 45 per cent of the council housing stock had been sold to tenants. Those members of the Society who had attended the Public Inquiry will recall that the District Council's officers had conceded that the meagre allocation of "social housing" on the proposed Walsall Road development would have little effect upon the waiting list for rented accommodation of this type. Housing Associations are actively encouraged by the District Council. Interestingly, up to 65% of the first purchasers of houses on Boley Park were from Lichfield. What does that tell us?

On local authority reorganisation, which is currently being investigated by a Government Commission, Mr Colburn reported that a District-wide plan was in preparation in anticipation of Staffordshire being reviewed in 1993. He anticipated that a unitary authority, if that was the commission's recommendation, would be similar to the District Council.

The lowering of the water table was mentioned and it was suggested that, since a bore hole had been used to replenish the Minster and Stowe Pools, perhaps the same method could be used to rescue Leomansley Pool.

Mr Colburn was keen to maintain the impetus of pedestrianisation. Before the 'banana junction' by the Library had been established a survey had shown that 700 cars per hour had been passing through the City centre - of which 60% had not stopped! Now, although the numbers are reduced, many cars still pass through without stopping. When more of the City centre has been pedestrianised, service and delivery vehicles would have timed periods for access. Many of us were encouraged to know that the intent to exclude cars from the centre is still alive - but at least one voice was heard to proclaim that "it would kill the City". We know of no town that has died from pedestrianisation but of many that have been saved from strangulation and asphyxiation by grid-lock.

This meeting was indeed topical, local and relevant to the life of Lichfield.

Maureen Hanson
September 1992