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Lichfield District Council confirms The Friary Leisure Centre will close to the public in 2020

Lichfield will be without a public leisure centre next year after the closure of The Friary was confirmed.

Friary Grange Leisure Centre

Staffordshire County Council has now served notice on the site to end a joint usage agreement for the site.

It comes after Lichfield District Council revealed that around a £2.4million investment would be needed to keep the centre up to date and has now opted to withdraw from the site, which is currently run by Freedom Leisure.

The Friary is now expected to close to the public in April 2020.

Cllr Liz Little, Cabinet member for leisure, said: “We worked hard with the county council to try to create a revised agreement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre, but unfortunately the age, condition and investment required in the building became an emerging issue.

“It was clear that a new agreement would not represent good value for council tax payers.

“To keep the building open, investment of over £440,000 to address urgent issues including the roof, electrics and boiler would be required. This investment would only serve to keep the doors open for a finite time, and not offer any enhancements that users would benefit from.

“An investment of a further £2million to bring the facility up to modern standards would be required, and this sum could significantly increase following full structural surveys.

“Because of the situation, on 9th July the council’s Cabinet agreed to work with Freedom Leisure to withdraw from the management of Friary Grange Leisure Centre by April 2020.

“This means from 26th April 2020 the centre, including the gym, squash courts, public spaces and swimming pool will close to the public under the management of Lichfield District Council and Freedom Leisure.

“We know this will come as a blow to all members, customers and clubs that use the leisure centre and we will be working to signpost them to other nearby facilities, including Burntwood Leisure Centre.

“All gym customers will be offered the chance to transfer to Burntwood Leisure Centre which has a state of the art gym, and there are other closer gyms, so we are confident gym users will be able to find another facility locally.”

Cllr Little said that the local authority recognised that Burntwood Leisure Centre would not be an option for some users.

She said: “We are confident a large percentage of occasional pool users will be able to use the facilities at Burntwood Leisure Centre, even if it is a slightly longer drive.

“However, we know the closure of the pool will affect users who cannot drive, and clubs who use it on a regular basis.

“Together with Freedom Leisure, we will work with the clubs as a priority to try to help them to relocate to other nearby facilities, either within or slightly outside the district, and thank them for their understanding.

“We have also been reassured by the school that the sports hall and sports pitches, including the synthetic pitch, will still be available for community use outside school hours after April 2020, through a direct relationship with the school, which is positive.

“Making sure our local residents have local opportunities to keep fit and healthy remains a priority for us – whether that’s through facilities we provide directly, or through working with partners.

“We are now working up our options, following the decision to withdraw from Friary Grange, to ensure we can meet our commitments and local people have access to good local facilities in years to come.”

Cllr Philip White, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for learning and employability, said: “Earlier this year Staffordshire County Council served twelve months’ notice on Lichfield District Council to end the joint user agreement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

“This meant a new agreement needed to be established for public use of the leisure centre, which would also support The Friary School’s ambition to become an academy.

“We recognise and support the difficult decision Lichfield District Council has had to make in relation to Friary Grange Leisure Centre and are very supportive of their effort to look at a longer term sustainable leisure solution for local residents.”

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17 Comments

  1. Will.I.Am

    12th July, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    Gotta love this council…….how is Friarsgate coming along?? Literally everything you touch……you really are making me not want to live in Lichfield….

  2. Philip Allso

    12th July, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    Not great news is it? Presumably Staffordshire County Council will have to foot the bill for restoration anyway if it is to remain useable for the Friary school. Or perhaps it will just be abandoned and further bodies will be dragged out of Stow Pool as fewer pupils are taught water skills. I was in Tenbury Wells last week (population 4000) it has a nice community swimming pool and a beautiful little art deco cinema. The feeling of the place was very citizen centred. What on Earth is happening to Lichfield? It’s just one thing after another. I am more than aware that opinions expressed here have no impact whatsoever. The feeling of importance to stop the slide into mediocrity for the citizens of this lovely city is profound.

  3. Darryl Godden

    12th July, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    My goodness, the apparent ineptitude continues. Seems only yesterday we were being told we needed to enter into these private partnership agreements to ensure the longevity of these facilities, and now we see the fallacy of private partnership for what it is.

    Public ownership is exactly that. It doesn’t draw a profit and it invests what it makes, private ownership needs to lift a profit, because investment requires repayment.

    There’s also the short term’ism of not investing in Friary Grange, it wasn’t hard to see, from those who were patrons, that the centre needed investment, but it seems that the blinkered vision of the council now means savings are quite literally the ignorance of bliss and an expense spared, kicking the issue into the long grass, so now we’re told Friary Grange is simply beyond repair.

    Heads will roll.

    Oh, no, actually they won’t – this is Lichfield Conservative Council, an abject lesson in doing the same thing over and and over again and expecting a different result.

  4. Steve

    12th July, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    This is an absolute disgrace.

    Why doesn’t our MP get involved and do something?

  5. Neil turner

    12th July, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    Lichfield council should develop a new leisure centre on friarsgate – that will drive footfall to the city centre without impacting on the existing retail

  6. Mat

    12th July, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    What a retrograde step in the life of Lichfield. This is what comes of vanity projects like Friarsgate.

  7. Darryl Godden

    13th July, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Just to clarify, I’m aware Freedom Leisure are a not for profit, however they still have to finance their business, from CEO pay to offices.

    Are LDC still pumping money into The Garrick?

  8. John Griffin

    13th July, 2019 at 8:00 am

    All ‘front’ too at Burntwood. LDC could’ve used a fraction if the Friarsgate money and not only upgraded the leisure centres but also paid staff and coaches decent wages too. Now Freedom Leisure (aka Wealden) are siphoning off money to their business, when LED could easily have set up a Trust, but declined to do so. Laziness? Ideology? Worse?

  9. AnnS

    13th July, 2019 at 8:13 am

    So, LDC, yet again, not for the many, but the few.

    Too taken up with festivals for this and that to bring in tourists rather than providing services for the people that did or indeed did not vote you into office.

    Burntwood, Cannock, Rugeley, Stafford and Tamworth to name a few all with great leisure facilities. What is becoming of our city? Next thing we’ll be told is that Lichfield has become one of the unhealthiest places to live.

    An utter disgrace. You ought to be ashamed, but you won’t be, you never are.

  10. Mike the mic

    13th July, 2019 at 9:46 am

    It’s appalling. But, as has been mentioned on these very pages before, the people who voted for this Chuckle Brother-esque Council have only themselves to blame for the continued mis-management, money squandering, and regular corruption we are experiencing as voters.

    We’re now told that, despite Freedom Leisure privately running Friary Leisure Centre (which we were assured would guarantee its long term future) is closing. Presumably the circa £10 million lost on the catastrophic Friarsgate project had an impact of this latest cost saving exercise. They have to claw back the money from somewhere, right??

    What is it going to take for people to stop voting for these inept councillors?? How much more failure and “councillor misconduct” are people willing to take in the name of “I’ve always voted Conservative”?

    As someone has previously stated, I too am starting to consider moving out of Lichfield. It’s not that city I grew up in, and it’s services and very identity is being wholesale stripped out of it by this council – most of which don’t actually live in Lichfield it seems.

    This council’s approach to building communities seems to be loads more housing developments (have you seen how many housing developments are being thrown up by the week?), with far fewer public services. Nice. Still – we can always rely on our cars to pump our greenhouse gases when we have to drive to Burntwood.

    Imbeciles.

  11. Darryl Godden

    13th July, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Something stinks in Lichfield.

    “Cllr Philip White, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for learning and employability, said: “Earlier this year Staffordshire County Council served twelve months’ notice on Lichfield District Council to end the joint user agreement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

    “This meant a new agreement needed to be established for public use of the leisure centre, which would also support The Friary School’s ambition to become an academy.”

    Why is there a desire for The Friary School to become an academy? A model that has comprehensively been criticised as inefficient and provides little cost benefit. There has been evidence of huge salaries, beyond what a standard school head could be paid, nepotism in business decision and contract awards, and academies continue to plateau in education standards.

    So why the desire to change the school to an academy? Just Google “the great academy scandal” there are so many trustworthy sources saying that this is going to come to a head.

    The contract for Freedom Leisure was signed in 2017 and was for 10 years.

    LDC paid a management fee of £140,000 for the contract.

    £536,000 was shifted off LDCs wage budget by transferring staff to Freedom Leisure, though they remained liable for £90,000 of pension liabilities.

    Freedom Leisure made a pre-tax income of £67.4m in 2018
    Staff costs were £33m of which there are 7 staff earning £60k+, they don’t declare who, but the highest is in a bracket of £110k-£119k.

    Although they disperse their profits for “the good of the community,” they still held £7.2m in accounts.

    LDC did pay £330k to Lichfield Garrick in 2018 and provided £50k in support services, two members of LDC remain on the Garrick board of trustees. Councillor Yeates has provided business services to the Garrick. It remains interesting that LDC continue to spend this money on the Garrick, yet The Friary is being closed.

    Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Managing Director of Freedom Leisure and David Talbut, Finance Director of Freedom Leisure are connected through numerous business ventures related to the sports centre business, not all of which are not-for-profit entities.

    Try and find any of the directors on social media, Linked-in etc. and it’s almost impossible.

    There’s a tangled web, it may be nothing and Freedom Leisure may simply be at the behest of a mind-boggling decision from LDC/SCC, but something just doesn’t feel right.

  12. Nicola Templeton

    13th July, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Take action please!

    Here’s a link to the petition- please sign. Decision made NEXT WEEK

    https://www.change.org/p/lichfield-district-council-save-the-friary-grange-leisure-centre-in-lichfield

  13. Burntwood Bloke

    13th July, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    The options for customers include paying over £100 per month to join Lichfield Golf Club / Gym or £60-90 for Bannatynes.

    Really bad this. My son swims at Nether Stowe School, perhaps this could be used in the evenings ?

    Either way this is a big blow for locals. I’m in Burntwood and, after seeing the investment in Burntwood Leisure Centre, I knew far more needed to be done on the older Lichfield equivalent.

    Considering the increased council tax, the ineptitude of the council and the Friarsgate disaster I’m continually shocked that people always vote Fabricant in again and again. He could close every public amenity and run through the streets naked. People would still vote Conservative.

  14. Michelle McManus

    13th July, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    This is a real shame. Has anyone costed the impact on people’s heath and wellbeing. It’s very short sighted. The population of Lichfield is growing and people won’t drive to Burntwood.

  15. Keith

    13th July, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Lichfield doesn’t have anything for youth at the best of times but this is an all time low. A city of 30,000 with no cinema, no leisure centre, no pool. Why pay the ridiculous cost for housing here? There is nothing anymore.

  16. Johnneo

    14th July, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Help

  17. Pennie

    14th July, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    How absolutely ridiculous! What a terrible decision! New houses , more families, a CITY – and no leisure centre. LDC should be ashamed of themselves.

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