Major planning proposals relating to Lichfield

The last occasion when Ian Thompson, Deputy Director of Planning for Lichfield District Council, addressed the Civic Society was in September 1991 when the revised Local Plan had just been published. Two years and a revision-requiring Public Inquiry later, members of the Society again assembled expecting to hear more about the consequences of that Inquiry and where these affect Lichfield City in the current Lichfield District Local Plan. In the event only a limited amount of time was devoted to our advertised title of "Major planning proposals relating to Lichfield".

On this occasion Mr Thompson dealt with three subjects. The first concerned Conservation Areas - a subject which is of concern to our Society. The second was Local Government reorganisation, a topic on which we have arranged a special meeting on Tuesday 9th November. The third part of the evening was an audience-inspired question and answer session about the proposals included in reports of the current Lichfield District Local Plan - as it affects Lichfield City.

Matters concerning the Conservation Area and planning regulations relating to it could have occupied a whole meeting. We heard of the powers designed to protect the external appearance of 'listed' buildings and the inadequate protection available to conserve the historic streetscape in relation to 'unlisted' buildings.

Mr Thompson showed a most interesting collection of slides illustrating unsympathetic off-the-shelf replacement doors and windows, walls and forecourts, shop signs, chimney removals, telegraph wires and painted brickwork. Tamworth Street was able to exemplify the strong need for greater powers to protect our own Conservation Area. This part of the meeting inspired a lively audience response. The high cost of replacement doors and windows, which in many cases would have to be specially made, was the suggested cause of some unsympathetic treatment of unlisted buildings. The removal of paving for the servicing and repair of utilities was cited as an example of failure to maintain the desired standard, as was the neglect by frontagers to keep their frontages swept and tidy. This part of the meeting closed with the question "Who cares - sufficiently to be prepared to pay for what needs to be done?"

The prospective loss of the Cricket Ground for a road described as "unnecessary", limiting deliveries within the pedestrianised area and building houses in relation to green open spaces for people to walk in and children to play on were among the topics about which questions were asked. A comment that the precinct is a shambles caused Mr Thompson to reveal that the developers had been asked if they would relinquish their lease - which surprisingly is for 125 years. The rejection of Dixon's application for shutters to protect the expensive goods on display in their window has been followed up by the District Council suggesting an alternative design and source of supply. Mr Thompson that investors are discouraged by the opposition to further housing - but failed to demonstrate that the Boley Park development had been reflected in improvements in the retail shopping area. The unanswerable question was asked - "What is Lichfield for?". The Civic Society Newsletter happily passes on this question and looks forward to receiving your response! Our Past-President Richard Miller-Yardley reminded us that Lichfield was first among local towns to refurbish its centre. He saw this as a subsequent disadvantage - with which none will disagree.

Although some members were disappointed that proposals under the Lichfield District Local Plan were not adequately covered at this meeting, it should be recognised that it is still early days in the statutory process and formal consultation is yet to follow.

Ivor Mitchell
October 1993