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Independent Lichfield councillor says stay of execution is needed for Friary Grange Leisure Centre

A Lichfield councillor has called for a stay of execution while the full picture around plans to shut Friary Grange Leisure Centre are considered.

Friary Grange Leisure Centre
Friary Grange Leisure Centre

The facility will close to the public in April 2020 after Lichfield District Council said it would cost £2.4million to bring the facility up to standard.

It means that Burntwood Leisure Centre will now be the only public facility available after the local authority handed over the King Edward VI Leisure Centre to the adjoining school.

A public meeting is being held at 7.30pm tonight (15th July) at Curborough Community Centre to formulate a plan of action by campaigners.

Cllr Doug Pullen, leader of Lichfield District Council has said his preference would be to invest in a new centre rather than spend money on “patching up” an existing one.

But Cllr Joanne Grange, an independent member on Lichfield District Council, said the option of a new centre would not work in the short term.

Joanne Grange
Joanne Grange

“While 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,” she said.

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

“Based on this, 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 Lichfield District Council’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.”

“Common sense”

Almost 3,000 residents have now signed the petition and many are expected to attend the public meeting tonight.

Lichfield District Council were expected to rubber stamp the plan at a meeting of the local authority on Tuesday.

The Friary Grange Leisure Centre agenda item had been earmarked to be heard behind closed doors – a move Cllr Grange said needs to be rethought.

She added: “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.”

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3 Comments

  1. Martin Daley

    15th July, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Well said, Jo – couldn’t agree more.

    I think most people would support a new Leisure Centre, but closing down the only existing one in the city on the basis of a council pipe dream or promise, is insane. Do people really still trust this council after Friarsgate anyway?? Not to mention the seemingly weekly scandals involving Councillors (which never involves the councillor in question being disciplined bytheway – largely because…..you’ve guessed it…..those meeting are held in private too!)

    The council has no right to hold Tuesday’s meeting in private. It’s morally wrong.

    We live within a democratic system where we should be allowed to express our opinion at these sorts of meetings, especially on things that directly impact on our community. What’s more important – open and transparent government or commercial sensitivity??

    In the last week alone, I’ve spoken to three people who’ve all told me that, for one reason or another, they have made complaints to the Local Gov ombusdman regarding LDC. How much longer can this farce go on??

    Are other councils this opaque and dysfunctional?

  2. Bassey

    15th July, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    We seem to only be hearing one side of the argument here.

    I understand people are entitled to their opinions but based upon the available info, I fully support the total closure of the facility. Lichfield has a wide range of parks and outdoor space which is not currently being utilised for exercise and sports activities. What about Beacon Park, Darnford Park or even the Co-Op car park (which seems to be the domain on driving instructors or youths these days!)??

    Sorry folks, but if there isn’t sufficient money to refurbish The Friary properly we must not accept half measures. Perhaps demolish the existing facility for executive housing/retire village and reinvest funds raised into a new facility at a new location. LDC could easily waive planning regs and get a facility built at cut price on green belt land around the city?

  3. Steve Bellion

    15th July, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    Well, Bassey…..I can’t quite believe you’re suggesting that people exercise in the Co-Op car park? I used to live on Boley Park, and I for one will not support any proposal for Zumba classes at the Co-Op. Its bad enough now – trying to find a parking parking space there on a Saturday morning, let alone having to weave in and out of Zumba Glyn giving a class near the car wash.

    I do, however, agree with you that are several under used public spaces in Lichfield which could be used as an interim Leisure Centre/exercise venue.

    For example, the nave of the cathedral is woefully underused during out of hours times. I know this may be met with a little resistance but, it could also provide a valuable source of income for Cathedral repairs etc.

    Similarly, Erasmus Darwin house is a large building with many rooms suitable for a gym etc. We just need a little creativity in approaching this.

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