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Lichfield’s MP says he hopes new leadership at Lichfield District Council will bring an end to “bad blood” in the talks over the future of Friary Grange Leisure Centre.
Representatives of the local authority, The Friary School and Staffordshire County Council are meeting to try to find a way forward for the facility.
The district council has proposed closing the leisure centre from April 2020 after it was served notice by the county council in order to aid the school’s attempt to become an academy.
Once the centre closed, facilities such as the sports pitch and sports hall would transfer to The Friary School, while other elements such as the pool would close completely.
But a petition signed by more than 5,000 residents and a backlash at a public meeting earlier this week has forced Lichfield District Council to postpone the process of rubber-stamping the decision.
The headteacher of The Friary School, Matt Allman, has said he believes the school is better placed to run the facilities than the council and has insisted he is “not the bad guy” in the piece, while the school’s chair of governors – who is also a serving councillor – said the school wanted its facilities back from the councils.
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant has said he hopes the talks are fruitful and result in the city retaining its last publicly-owned swimming pool.
Meanwhile, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for learning and employabilty, Cllr Philip White, said he also hoped the centre could remain open.
“The county council is legally obliged under the Academies Act 2010 to facilitate the academisation of any school that wishes to leave local authority control,” he said.
“Staffordshire County Council is not a driver of that process, but we will work with the school and Lichfield District Council as they try to find a solution.
“And I very much hope the result will be that Friary Grange Leisure Centre will stay open.”