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A Lichfield councillor says answers are needed on the reopening of Friary Grange Leisure Centre after being told more meetings were “not appropriate”.
The facility has remained closed since the coronavirus crisis began, with Lichfield District Council opting to keep it shut until October.
Burntwood Leisure Centre has reopened, with the local authority saying it would monitor demand “to inform decisions on the restoration of service at Friary Grange”.
In an email seen by Lichfield Live, Cllr Richard Cox, cabinet member responsible for leisure, told councillors they should stop asking for meetings on the issue.
“Across the country a great many leisure centres and pools remain closed with no firm date for reopening.
“I am immensely proud of the work we have done, in partnership with Freedom Leisure, to return leisure centre provision to the district.
“We have taken care to phase the reopening to manage both physical and financial risk, but where possible we have moved at pace.
“Lichfield district residents were among the first in the country to have swimming provision restored – there are still many parts of the country, indeed parts of Staffordshire, that still have no swimming provision.
“We have been trailblazers in the reopening of leisure centres and I believe we now need to give officers and colleagues at Freedom Leisure space to progress the re-opening plans.
“While it’s rewarding to see the passionate support for our leisure centres, repeated requests for review meetings, data and scenario modelling are not appropriate at such an early stage and risk inhibiting progress by diverting colleagues from their focus on reopening the centres.”Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council
“I will continue to ask these questions”
Cllr Cox added that he would update the progress on ending the Friary Grange closure at a an overview and scrutiny meeting next month.
But Cllr Joanne Grange, independent representative for the Chadsmead ward, said it was the duty of councillors to ask questions when many residents wanted to see the site reopen immediately.
“It would seem to me that given the ‘firm commitment’ to reopen Friary Grange Leisure Centre that was announced to the press, the only remaining question is one of timing, and as far as I can see there are no logical, financial or safety reasons to delay this to the end of October.
“While I note Cllr Cox’s comment that he does not believe repeated requests for review meetings, data and scenario modelling are appropriate, I disagree.
“I believe that it is entirely appropriate, and indeed our duty, to ask questions about why facilities are, seemingly, shut without adequate justification.
“It is completely correct, and even desirable, for us all to ask questions and ensure that past decisions remain valid given the availability of additional knowledge from time passing.
“I can also promise Cllr Cox that I will continue to ask these questions, through social media or the media if necessary, if I am prevented from asking them in person through the refusal to schedule meetings.”Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council
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