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Leisure centre closure is “wrong decision” says Bishop of Lichfield

The Bishop of Lichfield has said he believes the planned closure of Friary Grange Leisure Centre is “the wrong decision”.

the Bishop of Lichfield, The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave
the Bishop of Lichfield, The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave

Lichfield District Council is due to make a final call on the future of the city’s last public leisure centre in October.

It had previously drawn up proposals to shut the site from April 2020 after Staffordshire County Council served notice that it would hand over some parts to The Friary School to support its bid to become an academy – meaning other elements such as the swimming pool would shut.

But a campaign which has seen thousands sign a petition over the future of Friary Grange has led to a stay of execution while all options are explored further.

Now the Bishop of Lichfield, The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, has written to one of the founders of the group campaigning to save the facility giving his backing to the cause.

In the letter to Caroline Fellows he said: “Of course I appreciate that local authorities operate under severe financial constraints, and sometimes have to make difficult choices,” he said.

“But closure would seem to me to be the wrong decision, given the way that The Friary not only serves to promote physical health and well-being, but also serves as a focus of community gathering.”

He applauded Mrs Fellows’ determination and noted the “remarkable mobilisation of public support” for the campaign group.

Matt Wilson, who set up the petition against the closure, said: “To receive the unequivocal support of a public figure like the Bishop is a fantastic boost to our campaign and we’re hugely grateful to him.

“His support is in stark contrast to the complete silence of our MP Michael Fabricant who has so far failed to respond in any way to our appeals for his help in keeping this vital community asset open for his constituents.”

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8 Comments

  1. AnnS

    9th August, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Maybe now we have some ‘Divine Intervention’ support we might see our MP lend his support rather than fob off the good people of Lichfield & District with his usual “it’s a matter for the local authority”. I don’t hold out much hope though.

  2. Steven Norman

    9th August, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    That’s Mr Fabricant for you: silent on the fate of this important facility, silent on the threat to our Green Belt (as he was silent on Sajid Javid’s overturning of LDC ‘s decision – supported by an Independent Inspector- to refuse the 750 home development at Curborough) and silent on the lack of a permanent Health and Wellbeing Centre in Chasetown.

  3. Michael Fabricant

    9th August, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Mr Norman, quick to criticise, slow to read obviously missed
    https://lichfieldlive.co.uk/2019/07/18/mp-hopeful-new-district-council-leadership-can-end-bad-blood-and-secure-future-of-lichfields-last-publicly-owned-swimming-pool/
    and numerous other stories in Lichfield Live where I commented on Friary Grange and its closure.
    To Mr Matt Wilson: If he has written to me, he will have received a clear response.

  4. CDC

    10th August, 2019 at 6:42 am

    He’s far more interested in promoting the work of his mate the mayor of Birmingham than he is in local issues in Lichfield. Only time I’ve ever seen him is when he’s been door knocking prior to an election. Then he knows where Lichfield is !
    He won’t support this, it’s his governments fault local authorities have no funds

  5. Steve

    10th August, 2019 at 9:27 am

    The Archbishop also announced that the councillors nativity performance for this year has been cancelled.

    They were unable to find three wise men.

  6. Matt Wilson

    10th August, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    I have written to Michael Fabricant. Awaiting response. Am asking on behalf of the 8,000 who have signed the petition, will he help his community, his constituents, and support our campaign? Tory health policy is now based around prevention. Physical and mental health is improved by exercise, and closing our only public leisure centre does not comply with Tory policy. An MP that cares for their community should be leading this campaign. Let’s hope Mr Fabricant joins us.

  7. Philip Allso

    10th August, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    There would appear to be three factions pulling in different directions over this facility. The County Council, the District Council and the school. As with King Edwards which had a similar set up for the sports hall this eventually produced a conflict of interests with the public as the losers.
    A city the size of Lichfield should be able to support an independent swimming facility. Local schools could still have its use at agreed times provided that it did not seriously compromise public use. All facilities do not have to be profitable if they are demonstrably for the general good. There are less worthy enterprises in Lichfield that are subsidised.
    With an ever growing population I would have thought these basic necessities would have been a shoe in, and, notwithstanding the current lack of support from central government, would be a welcome boost to our much maligned Local Council as at least one attribute for the disillusioned citizens.

  8. Steven Norman

    12th August, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    I note that Mr Fabricant couldnt bring himself to call me Councillor again – but that’s okay.
    I also note that he did a ‘Bojo” again and avoids the question.

    He didn’t explain why he has been silent over the lack of a permanent Burntwood Health and Wellbeing Centre in Chasetown, silent about the Government’s threat to the Green Belt and silent about the Curborough development.

    A Trump type tweet (tweets now) is not enough. A good constituency MP would have asked for a meeting with all the parties involved to see if a solution can be found. One letter followed by a press release or one tweet is not value for money from a Member of Parliament.

    I know, I used to work for a good Constituency MP. He would have done that AND met with protesters AND they would have been welcomed to one of his regular, advertised twice monthly surgeries – in addition to the 4 held in the rural areas on the same day. (On two Fridays a month surgeries were held elsewhere in the evening.)

    Of course, he knows Leisure Services is not a statutory service and he has consistently voted for council cuts. But let’s hope Councillor Pullen does what he is told (if he hasn’t already tipped his mate off).

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