Task group will draw on “uniquely placed” elected members to help create long-term replacement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre


The role of councillors in developing a new leisure centre in Lichfield is a “critical success factor”, a new report has claimed.

Lichfield District Council is putting together plans to secure a long-term facility in the city following an 11th hour U-Turn over the planned closure of Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

Friary Grange Leisure Centre

The local authority had earmarked the site for closure in April before a public campaign saw the council reverse the decision.

However, the long-term future of the site remains far from secure and a meeting of the council’s leisure overview and scrutiny committee next week will hear about plans to create a new task group to help direct the development of a new facility.

A report from Cllr Elizabeth Little, cabinet member for leisure, said the input of elected members would add “huge value” to the project.

“Elected member involvement throughout this process is considered a critical success factor.

“Members, as the elected representatives of our residents, are uniquely placed to understand and articulate resident need.

“Members also have the understanding and perspective to add huge value to the project in terms of support, guidance and, where necessary, challenge.”

Cllr Elizabeth Little, Lichfield District Council

“Specific mandate”

The new task group will focus on the development of a new facility, while other aspects of the overall project will ensure that the existing facilities can continue to operate in the short term.

Cllr Little added:

“The new Lichfield Leisure Centre task group’s remit will be exclusively be this project – the new leisure centre.

“The group will have no specific mandate with regards to other parts of the project. This reflects both the need to focus effort on this and also that the ability to meaningfully shape the other parts is considered very limited.”

Cllr Elizabeth Little, Lichfield District Council
Jamie Checkland

The new group will be made up of a cross-party group of councillors, including Conservative Cllr Jamie Checkland, who stood down as a governor of The Friary School after criticism over his position in the wake of the initial plan to shut Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

He also resigned from a number of council roles as well as apologising for breaching the code of conduct during a debate on the future of the facility.

Others on the group include Lib Dem Cllr Paul Ray, Labour’s Cllr Sharon Banevicius, independent member Cllr Joanne Grange and Conservatives Cllr Deborah Baker and Cllr Janie Silvester Hall.

A document outlining the role of the group says the objective is “to have a much closer overview of the new build project as it progresses”.

The creation of the new task group will be discussed at the meeting on 3rd March.

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11 Comments

  1. What I really appreciate about our elected representatives is that they remain humble and never overplay their sense of self importance…

    Who better could there be to steer the future of a leisure centre than a group of ageing councillors, many of whom probably think a spin class is something that happens in a launderette?

    Glad to see there’s also a place for the man who is so representative of the people who elected him that he openly declared his priority was getting the best deal for the school – so much so that he was happy to hand over public facilities to a private academy trust for free. Given that almost 10,000 members of the electorate signed a petition saying they didn’t quite agree with Mr Checkland’s view, perhaps him being the only person to believe it was a good idea is what makes him uniquely placed? Perhaps there’s another academy trust he’s hoping to help out by getting the taxpayer to fund a leisure centre he can give away for free in future?

  2. Well said wilf. I’d have thought a task group with community members who fought to save it might have been more appropriate than some of those who were helping pack up the equipment so the school could move in.

  3. Fair enough, Joanne.

    But have you ever tried to give away a leisure centre to a school you favoured over your residents? Or is that just councillor Checkland’s unique placing for being on the group?

  4. Wilf, I will confess I’ve never tried to give away a leisure centre. But I do know what a spin class is, and currently I’m signed up to six various exercise classes each week and regularly talk to other users and staff at FGLC so I think I can bring something to the party.

  5. Are you able to explain why Mr Checkland, he of conflict of interest fame, is deemed an appropriate member of this group?

  6. Unfortunately I’m not as I was not involved in determining the make up of the task group. The formalities around the task group will, I believe, be discussed at the Leisure meeting next Tuesday. I’m not a member of this committee but will pass on the points raised.

  7. On the subject of Friary Grange, the floodlights have now been out of action for a week. There appears to be very little obligation on the part of the people responsible for maintenance and repairs judging by the state of the place.

  8. It is difficult to see why the school should pay for floodlight repairs when they only operate during the day and do not use them. The vast majority of school money is per pupil so should money for a teacher, or book, or field trip be sent to pay for this ? Surely the income paid to Freedom Leisure (and hence Lichfield District Council) by the evening users should be used for this purpose ? Would a school parent be happy to see their child’s ‘education money’ being redirected by the school to provide income for Freedom Leisure ?

  9. It is interesting that Cllr Elizabeth Little puts so much emphasis on the importance of ‘elected’ representation. Where were these people when the public had to save the facility by demonstration?
    So much of the ‘mood music’ surrounding Lichfields affairs has a cloak and dagger theme to it. On so many issues, including planning, the environments and the provision of basic services and facilities, it has proved beyond the abilities of our ‘elected’ representatives to provide tangible answers. I rather suspect that Cllr. Little’s real intention is to insure that as little as possible will be done to placate what has become a cornerstone issue for many of Lichfields citizens.

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