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A swimming club has backed new calls for a Lichfield leisure centre to reopen as soon as possible.

Members of the Friends of Friary Grange Leisure Centre have written an open letter to Lichfield District Council calling for action after it emerged the site would remain shut until October.

The Friary Grange Leisure Centre pool

The decision comes despite the Government giving the green light for facilities to open from this weekend.

But the local authority has opted to only reopen Burntwood Leisure Centre initially, citing challenges around social distancing at the Friary Grange site.

Lichfield Swimming Club said it was supportive of the calls for the council to rethink the proposals.

“We really hope the residents of Lichfield get behind this campaign to open Friary Grange before the proposed October date.

“We saved the centre last year by pulling together as a community, so let’s do the same again.”

Lichfield Swimming Club spokesperson

More than 180 people have signed the open letter so far.

The latest campaign comes after thousands signed a petition to save the leisure centre, forcing Lichfield District Council to do a u-turn on plans for a permanent closure of the facility last year.

“We need to do the right thing for our community”

Cllr Paul Ray told a recent overview and scrutiny committee meeting that even a partial reopening to allow swimming groups to get back in the pool should be considered.

Paul Ray

“Lichfield Swimming Club have a large membership who are desperate to get back swimming and youngsters who are desperate to get active.

“The way Burntwood Leisure Centre will operate is that you can book lane swimming – that could be opened at Friary Grange Leisure Centre to create an income straight away.

“We have residents who are desperate to get back and exercise, including a large part of the younger population who have been locked down for so long.

“We need to do the right thing for our community.”

Cllr Paul Ray, Lichfield District Council

But Ben Percival, head of operations at Lichfield District Council, told the meeting the costs would outweigh the benefits.

“A partial reopening at Friary Grange Leisure Centre presents a challenge as the scale of the layout means it would only work with the pool.

“Opening the pool as a standalone facility is difficult. We had a very good meeting with Lichfield Swimming Club and were in no doubt about the passion and desire to come back to swimming.

“There isn’t an issue with them swimming safely, but I have to have an eye on viability and value for money.

“The swimming club are our biggest single customer, but they only account for betwen 5% and 10% of budgeted income from Friary Grange.

“Swimming lessons, which are the key activity from a revenue generating perspective, won’t start until much later in the year in common with all operators up and down the country.

“We know swimming is an important activity for health and wellbeing and that’s one of the reasons why we were keen to bring Burntwood into use so quickly, and we’ve also got facilities opening up in neighbouring authorities.

“We are absolutely passionate about doing is working with Lichfield Swimming Club and other clubs to help them find temporary alternative training locations while we’ve got the pause in the reopening of Friary Grange.”

Ben Percival, Lichfield District Council

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