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Speed of plan to decide fate of Friary Grange Leisure Centre “beggars belief”, says independent Lichfield councillor

An independent councillor says it “beggars belief” that the Conservatives at Lichfield District Council attempted to push through the plan to close Friary Grange Leisure Centre without consultation.

Friary Grange Leisure Centre

The local authority announced plans to close the facility in April 2020 on Friday (12th July), with the decision expected to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the full council tonight.

But the Conservative group has now deferred the final call until September to allow for further consultation to take place.

Joanne Grange
Joanne Grange

Cllr Joanne Grange, independent representative for the Chadsmead ward, said she could not believe the speed with which the decision had almost been made.

She told a public meeting at Curborough Community Centre: “The fact that this announcement came out on a Friday afternoon with a proposed council meeting on Tuesday to ratify the ultimate decision beggars belief to me.

“That means there has been no time to consult the users of the leisure centre or the community and it’s been presented as a done deal.

“But the fact that in just 48 hours there have been 3,500 signatures on the online petition and this many people have come together with little or no notice is amazing.”

Cllr Doug Pullen, leader of Lichfield District Council, told the meeting that consultation had not been possible because of restrictions relating to the employment status of Freedom Leisure staff who could be impacted by the closure.

Cllr Doug Pullen speaking at the public meeting
Cllr Doug Pullen speaking at the public meeting

“I hope that the action we’ve taken in recognising the petition and deferring any further decisions until we can debate it in public will show that we are intent on listening and hearing what people have to say,” he said.

“And this isn’t us trying to kick the can down the road. This now gives us a period of time to carry out some proper consultation.

“It’s a regrettable situation that we were not able to do any consultation until now, but there’s a very specific reason as it had staffing implications for Freedom Leisure and we could not say anything in public until that point.”

“Not feasible”

The closure of Friary Grange Leisure Centre would leave Lichfield residents facing a trip to Burntwood in order to access public swimming, gym and sports facilities.

Friary Grange Leisure Centre
Friary Grange Leisure Centre

Cllr Grange warned this was an option that was not available to all users of the Friary site.

“The fact that the leisure centre is in the catchment area of two of the poorest wards in the district means that the suggestion people should get in their car and go to Burntwood is not feasible for some people,” she said.

“And that’s not fair.

“I will be fighting alongside the organisers of the petition and the meeting to push as hard as we can to get the right outcome and for this leisure centre to stay open.”

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6 Comments

  1. Jonny Bravo

    16th July, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    This decision was discussed at a cross party overview and scrutiny meeting and passed through with no challenge and no comments.

    The City Councils hand has been forced by the School pursuing academy status supported by Staffordshire CC transferring it’s responsibilities and liabilities. I’d be amazed if the 3,500 people who have signed the partition actually use the Leisure Centre – it’s in a terrible state of disrepair having been underinvested in for years.

  2. John Griffin

    16th July, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Look at the head’s former schools to get an idea of his ambition and success rate.Once an academy, it’s blank cheque time and the whole asset (paid for by you the taxpayer) gets handed over to the academy trust for free.

  3. AnnS

    16th July, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    #Jonny Bravo, it’s neither here nor there if you use the leisure centre or not. I’m one that does not use it now but did so when my children were young, and as I grow older may need to do so for the services and facilities that it offers older people. I have supported this call to arms because I care about the future of the city and the people that live in it, especially the young. A leisure centre to serve the physical and social needs of any community is paramount to their health and well-being.

  4. Cllr Sue Woodward

    16th July, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    It’s not true, Jonny Bravo, to say there was “no challenge” at the O&S Committee. The then Cabinet Member, Cllr Leytham (remember him?) told all of us on the committee in January that we would be updated at the next meeting when the condition survey was completed but that it was “not unusual for its age”. At the next meeting in March, we were told that a business case was being worked on and would be reported “as soon as possible”. We, the public (I’m no longer on LDC) need to know what happened with this business case and when it was ditched. Did the elections timetable have anything to do with it?

  5. AnnS

    16th July, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Of course it did Sue, but they weren’t going to let this cat out of the bag before the local elections now were they?

  6. Darryl Godden

    16th July, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Just to counteract Jonny Bravo’s arrogant comment, I was in the leisure centre not a month ago, took my girls swimming, like all local authority facilities – it is not pristine and could always benefit from more investment – but it is not “in a terrible state of disrepair.”

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