The tide never goes out in Lichfield.
That is one of the benefits of living in a landlocked seaside resort.
The others are highlighted in a feature in The Economist looking at retirement patterns.
It appears that Lichfield and a few other in-land cathedral towns and cities are taking over the mantle of God’s waiting rooms from the traditional seaside resorts that have for so long proved a magnet for people of a certain age.
As Lichfield – aka Lichvegas, Ye Olde City, or “Where?” if you’re a not-so-smooth talking PR person – grows older, so the demands on the city change. An ageing population needs to be accommodated…and not just in purpose-built retirement villages.
Everything needs to be looked at, from healthcare to education (the University of the Third Age is very active in Lichfield), from transport to green spaces and parks, from the retail and leisure provision to the nightlife. A balance needs to be struck between the needs and the demands of the increasingly ageing and seemingly economically important population and those of us under-60s still swanning around like we own the place without any care or consideration for others.
In all seriousness, it is a challenge that Lichfield District Council faces and I don’t envy them it.
And it is a challenge that is evident in the waiting game being played out regarding the city centre’s redevelopment. I hesitate to call it the Friarsgate “discussion”, as there seems to be precious little local debate beyond the by-the-numbers consultation exercise that all similar schemes undergo and Lichfield Live’s attempts to get people talking about the development.
The danger is that Lichfield becomes a clone city centre by default because that is what best suits the different demands of the different population groups. The easily accessible (for those living in or close to the city centre) Friarsgate, with its safe selection of shops and places to eat, could well represent the perfect development for Lichfield-Not-By-Sea.
Whether that fits in with the city’s heritage, cathedral status, or the rest of us who live and work here, might not enter into the equation any longer. Lichfield is suffering from severe growing pains, not bad for a city that left its teenage years behind many, many years ago.
The Economist articles concludes: “The greatest and most subtle challenge for a place like Lichfield is the preservation of niceness.”
Friarsgate is many things. But it certainly isn’t nice.