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Leader says Lichfield District Council would be better off investing in new leisure centre rather than spending £2.4million “patching up” Friary Grange

The leader of Lichfield District Council believes the local authority would be better off investing in a new leisure centre rather than “patching up” an existing one.

Friary Grange Leisure Centre is set to close to the public in April 2020 after it emerged that £2.4million needed to be spent bringing the building up to standard.

Cllr Doug Pullen, who became leader of the council in May, admitted on social media that the situation was not ideal – and hinted that the issue should have been dealt with by previous decision makers.

Doug Pullen
Doug Pullen

He said: “I can’t speak for previous politicians, so I don’t know why certain choices were made.

“But I personally would much rather invest in a new centre than patch up an existing one.”

A petition against the plan to close the leisure centre has now gained more than 2,200 signatures.

As well as a potential 42 redundancies, closure would lead to users of the facility having to travel to Burntwood after the previous closure of Lichfield’s other leisure centre at King Edward VI School.

Cllr Pullen said he was committed to helping find solutions in the short and long term.

“We don’t own the building,” he said. “We were offered different lease terms meaning it would cost us £2.4million just to keep the doors open.

“We’ve committed £75,000 to help users find alternative options in the short term and to finding an alternative solution within 12 months.”

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10 Comments

  1. Lichfield District Council just go

    14th July, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    I have a great idea, why not make all the staff unemployed, board the site up, promise a new all singing, all dancing alternative, set fire to £8-10 of local taxpayers’ money, then say you can’t do it after all?

    Oh wait…..

  2. Angela Smith

    14th July, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157428285617290&id=849657289
    If they won’t listen to us, maybe they should listen to our kids, who use it most.

  3. Joanne Grange

    14th July, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Whilst I don’t believe anyone would disagree with the notion that investing in a new leisure centre is preferable to patching up an old one, there is no sign of a new leisure centre at the moment so this isn’t really a choice that’s available.

    The choice at the moment is patching up an old leisure centre or having no leisure centre.

    Based on this choice, clearly the best answer is patching up the existing facility, especially in the context of rising obesity levels, the demonstrable benefits of exercise to good mental health, the terrible incidents of drowning recently in the district and LDC’s own strategic plan giving as a key aim “creating healthy and safe communities” to name but a few reasons.

    The situation appears to have been caused by two councils not being able to agree terms to provide leisure facilities for the very people that pay for both councils. If ever there was a good argument for a unitary authority this would surely form part of the case study.

    The key issue here is timing. Friary Grange Leisure Centre has to be given a stay of execution until such time as there is at least a plan for replacement with visible signs of that plan being carried out. It should come as no surprise that, given Friarsgate, trust to deliver some future, as yet unplanned and unfunded new leisure centre is low.

    I will be voting against this decision should it come before the council meeting on Tuesday, but given the petition has reached more than 1,000 signatures there is a requirement for a report to be made that will be considered by Cabinet which common sense suggests should be in advance of the vote…

  4. Steve

    14th July, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Creating opportunities to increase the number of residents who are physically active, especially in hard to reach groups

    HSC 03(a) Utilise Sport England Facilities Planning Model to develop options appraisal and feasibility study for the future potential replacement of Friary Grange leisure centre.

    Options appraisal in draft. Ambition to present to O&S, Cabinet and Full Council in
    summer 2019

    https://democracy.lichfielddc.gov.uk/documents/g1593/Public%20reports%20pack%2013th-Jun-2019%2018.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10

  5. Pam easto

    14th July, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    A new leisure centre is an excellent idea – preferably in the middle of town on the Friarsgate site so that residents – particularly those living in retirement flats – can reach it easily. And next to the coach station so that schools coaches can access it easily. Sharing a pool and leisure facilities with a large secondary school, which is becoming an academy probably is not the most efficient use of council funds – but a new facility would get a lot of support.

  6. Chris Wilkinson

    15th July, 2019 at 12:36 am

    Maybe if the Conservative council actually delivered Friarsgate then maybe the option for a new leisure centre might have been on the cards, but we all know how that went. The council’s high administrative costs for a city so small are a compelling indictment of the Conservatives’ reckless financial management. Let’s just hope that jurisdiction of the leisure centre isn’t passed on to the ‘Head of Economic Growth’ – the office has possibly the worst record of any public body presently in existence.

  7. Martin Daley

    15th July, 2019 at 10:05 am

    On the subject of a new Leisure Centre, I, like many other Lichfield resident, get VERY anxious at the prospect of this council undertaking any large project which involves large sums of money. We’ve seen how well managed Friarsgate was, and how efficiently the blame was passed to external investors – the council completely absolving themselves of ANY blame. The council have not demonstrated that they are able to cope with strategic planning. Would you trust a group of people who wasted approx £7m of taxpayers money? It’s a bit like trusting Robert Maxwell with your pension…..

    Then of course we have the constant reports of councillors acting inappropriately, not declaring business interests – and getting let off the hook because they “didn’t understand they had to declare business interests” (I’m not making this up!!). This was an ex mayor ffs!!

    To add to this calamitous performance, the council then meet in secret over any issues that they chose to – all under the guise of “sensitive information”, presumably because they have yet again either exposed internal wrong doing, or outed yet another bent councillor who they intend to let off the hook. Or maybe they just don’t want the public sticking their oar in?

    How do we get rid of this council ASAP? They have consistently shown themselves to be incompetent in the extreme. This can’t, and should not go on. THIS IS PUR MONEY THAT ARE THROWING ABOUT, AND OUR CITY THEY ARE SYSTEMATICALLY TRASHING. How many people on this very site have stated that they no longer want to live in Lichfield?? Quite a few of my friends have said the same.

    Surely, enough is enough??

  8. Eric.N.Drinkwater

    15th July, 2019 at 10:22 am

    All sounds very plausible but as councillor Norman has said it all needs rolling out in a proper plan discussed by all representatives of the council. Like others have said the Friars
    gate fiasco has or should have taught everyone a lesson. The Tory councillors have forgotten why they are there to provide and look after services for the public not keep finding ways of closing them down but I suppose it is difficult with a Tory government that are hell bent on starving local authorities of funds.

  9. Meh

    15th July, 2019 at 11:27 am

    I’ve got a fantastic idea, why don’t the tireless and selfless councillors simply forego their allowance for a year? That would certainly boost revenue? Mentioning no names, have you seen how many of them are couples?? Both claiming? It’s almost as though they rely on it as part of their earnings….

    https://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/downloads/file/1147/2018-2019-councillor-allowances

  10. Joanne Grange

    29th July, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Now the papers that the cabinet considered have been issued into the public domain via this link https://democracy.lichfielddc.gov.uk/documents/s7190/Item%2010%20-%20Friary%20Grange%20Lesiure%20Centre%20Released%20for%20Publication.pdf, it’s important to note that the spend that would be required to stabilise the building (at point 3.6) is £443k. Point 3.6 continues by saying that “additional elements of the £2.38m MAY have to be spent prior to the end of the 5 years”.

    The papers that were used to drive the decision do not say that it would be necessary to spend £2.38m to keep the centre operational for 5 years, just that there is a risk that some elements of the total of £2.38m may be needed, but spending the significantly lower amount of £443k would stabilise the building so it is operationally fit for purpose for a short period of time, which is inferred as the period of 5 years until the first break clause in the proposed new lease.

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