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Campaigners have called for reassurances that the coronavirus crisis will not lead to the full closure of Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

The facility will remain shut until October under plans unveiled by Lichfield District Council – a move that has been criticised by a local councillor.

The pool at Friary Grange Leisure Centre

The local authority has previously said it remains committed to supporting operator Freedom Leisure until at least March 2021.

But in an open letter to council leader Cllr Doug Pullen, members of the Friends of Friary Grange Leisure Centre – formerly the Save Friary Grange group – said they feared for the long term future.

“It was extremely disheartening to see the overview and scrutiny committee confirm the recommendation to delay the opening of Friary Grange Leisure Centre until October at the earliest, with the final decision appearing to rest on the performance of Burntwood Leisure Centre.

“The proposed extended closure flies against the commitment and understanding of the need to retain leisure facilities in Lichfield as agreed by Lichfield District Council last year.

“We are asking for a public and firm commitment that full closure is not back on the table, and that Friary Grange Leisure Centre will reopen.”

Friends of Friary Grange Leisure Centre
Friary Grange Leisure Centre

The open letter has already been signed by more than 150 people, including Cllr Joanne Grange, Cllr Colin Ball, Cllr Dave Robertson and Cllr Paul Ray.

The group are now calling for others to sign the letter questioning the council’s decision to delay the reopening.

They say the cost savings from delaying reopening would be “minimal” – and insisted some members of Friary Grange would not be able to reach alternative leisure options.

The group added:

“As demonstrated during last year’s campaign to Save Friary Grange, Friary Grange users will not or cannot travel to Burntwood Leisure Centre, and the facilities for disabled users are better at Friary Grange

“The ‘older people’ who are members of Friary Grange are not the only users of the centre.

“There is no evidence in the report that any Friary Grange users have been asked if they would be returning and we are surprised that this isn’t supported by an Equality Impact Assessment

“It is accepted that Friary Grange is a smaller facility but social distancing will be possible and there is the opportunity to use the space more imaginatively.

“The verbal concerns over the safety of residents would be better addressed by opening both centres and making full use of the available space.”

Friends of Friary Grange of Leisure Centre

“Residents are trusting their council to deliver”

The group says it hopes to see the council reverse the initial decision to delay the reopening of Friary Grange following the COVID-19 pandemic.

And they said those who fought to save the facility were ready to ensure promises were kept.

“Lichfield District Council made a decision last year to refurbish Friary Grange Leisure Centre and to build a replacement centre within a five year period.

“Residents are trusting their council to deliver that commitment.

“We look forward to working with Cllr Pullen to make that happen.”

Friends of Friary Grange Leisure Centre

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