Why did LDC ‘leader’ claim land by fancied house was ‘designated’?

There is a mystery over a plot of Fradley land the ‘leader’ of Lichfield District Council (LDC) claimed was ‘designated’ for recreation in the deceased owner’s will.

designated

Michael Wilcox: he would not answer questions.

It now seems Michael Wilcox wanted to buy a house linked to the site.

However there is no suggestion that he has acted improperly.

The plot is part of farmland to the south of Bridge Farm Lane.

Deceased farmer

It belonged to the late George Arblaster, a former member of Fradley and Streethay Parish Council (FSPC).

The current owners have applied for permission to build up to 80 houses on a southern section of the farmland.

Some people believe the farmer intended part of the land to be left to the village for recreation.

But the ‘Phoenix’ has been told that may have been a misunderstanding arising from a comment Mr. Arblaster made to a developer.

And the fact a planning application has been made to build on the farmland suggests he did not bequeath any land to the community.

Nowhere safe

FSPC’s June meeting heard that if planning consent was given to build on the Arblaster site none of the farmland would be safe from development.

And there is no record of Wilcox, who was at that meeting, saying part of the site had been ‘designated’ for the villagers’ recreation.

He would not respond to the ‘Phoenix’s enquiries on the matter.

So it is not known why it seems he had earlier claimed to know what was written in Mr. Arblaster’s will.

Wilcox’s interest in house

But he does appear to have been interested in the deceased landowner’s farmhouse.

It also seems that if the plot of land in front of the building had been earmarked for recreation in a Neighbourhood Plan, no one would now be able to build on it.

As a protected open space it also seems it would be have been worth far less money than as a development site.

Tory initiative

‘Neighbourhood Plans’ were introduced in 2011 as part of the  Tories’ ‘Localism Act’ to enable residents to guide development in their villages.

Councillor Wilcox has agreed that a bid in 2012 to set up a Fradley Plan steering group was not properly supported by FSPC, of which he was and is a member.

Yet, in December, 2013, he was pulling out all the stops to create one.

Wilcox worried?

In a meeting before Wilcox put his proposal to FSPC he appeared keen to earmark in the Neighbourhood Plan part of the Arblaster land for recreation.

He said: “We’ve got a real opportunity here to say, ‘and I think George Arblaster’s land will be ideal for a nice cricket pavilion and cricket pitch’.”

Designated land

He said: “In the will (Mr. Arblaster’s will) it is designated and has to be used for village recreational purposes, nothing else.”

Wilcox added that the “designated” plot was, “the whole piece of land in front of the farm”.

Where exactly?

It was, “where he keeps his sheep on the front of his house”, he said, before confirming it was right in front of the house.

He then seemed to say he knew it was around there because the old barn was being renovated.

Wilcox was told it was thought he might have been the person doing the renovating since he had, “always wanted the place”.

He agreed he had and seemed to suggest he might do some work on it in future, saying: “Yes, It’s lovely.  Well, who knows?  We might well be, who knows.”

No further forward

An LDC officer said Neighbourhood Plans took two years to put together.  But Fradley’s seems no nearer completion now than it did in January 2014.

Nor does there seem to be any chance of such a document now being able to preserve part of the Arblaster land for recreation.

On the move

Michael Wilcox and his wife lived in Orgreave before moving in to live with his mother-in-law, in Fradley.

Less than a year after being elected, in May 2015, he left the area altogether.

Wilcox wrote to fellow Tories, saying that after, “a long period of not being able to find a suitable home within the District”, he had moved to Burton on Trent.

Would not respond

Michael Wilcox would not respond to the ‘Phoenix’s enquiries.

There is no suggestion that he has done anything improper in connection with any of the Arblaster property.

At FSPC’s July meeting it was suggested the probate records should be searched to see if Mr. Arblaster had intended to leave land to the village.


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