At the end of last year, Michael Fabricant wrote to the property developer of the Birmingham Road site in Lichfield expressing concern about the final appearance of the shopping centre. "I told them that the choice of materials would be crucial and that a brick facing, for example, would be far more in keeping with the City of Lichfield than stark concrete. I asked for something more Brindley Place than Bullring".
Michael has now received a reply from David Clancy, a director of S Harrison Developments Limited who are based in Malton, North Yorkshire and are developing the Lichfield site. In his letter, Mr Clancy says:-
"It is very much in everyone’s interests that the scheme we deliver is appropriate in every sense to the community it serves so the issues you raise reflect exactly our own priorities in delivering a successful development. Please be reassured that your fears regarding the mistakes of the 60s and 70s are totally unfounded. You only need look at Harrison’s recently completed and acclaimed Washington Square development in Workington to see the sensitivity with which we design bespoke schemes for individual locations, respecting their architecture and heritage.
"Friarsgate is our flagship development and it is very important to us that it is successful in every way. It is truly a mixed development that combines retail, leisure, hotel, cinema, office, residential, public transport interchange and car parking, it is not just a shopping centre that will become quiet once the shops have shut, it is an extension to the existing city centre, effectively creating a new quarter.
"Our proposals for Lichfield are based on contemporary designs, something that I and our architects feel is important. The building should be of a high quality, but appropriate to Lichfield and the early
21st Century, not a pastiche of what has gone before, that would look wrong. However, there is a wide use of traditional materials to reflect Lichfield’s existing architectural style and the final materials are conditioned in the planning consent. The council members will approve these in committee.
"I can assure you that none of our team wishes to be associated with anything other than a quality development that delivers benefits for the whole of the city, not just the immediate area. I believe that our proposal will provide a massive boost for the city’s economy and will make Lichfield an important centre in the region for years to come."
Michael responds by saying: "I find this response very reassuring though I will remain concerned until I have seen the final overall appearance. It is fast becoming a cliché among planners, developers, and some councillors to cast traditional designs as being a ‘pastiche’. Harvard and Yale in the United States are a pastiche of Oxford and Cambridge yet it is that very fact which makes them so attractive as university campuses. And closer to home, the Town Hall in Birmingham is a ‘pastiche’ of an ancient Greek temple yet no one suggests it is nothing but an asset to that great city.
"I shall be meeting with David Clancy in due course and look forward to seeing his final design proposals."