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Five Lichfield councillors have backed plans for the city’s new leisure centre to be built at Stychbrook Park.

Lichfield District Council has earmarked the site as the preferred location for the long term replacement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

Stychbrook Park. Picture: Google Streetview

Five councillors in the local area have said they understand why some residents have criticised the plan – but insist it is the best option for the city.

A statement on the issue was signed by:

  • Cllr Dave Robertson (Labour), Curborough ward
  • Cllr Colin Ball (Labour), Curborough ward
  • Cllr Joanne Grange (Independent), Chadsmead ward
  • Cllr Paul Ray, (Lib Dem), Chadsmead ward
  • Cllr Jeyan Anketell (Labour), Stowe ward

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“We are delighted that the site chosen will remain in north Lichfield, as near as possible to the existing facility.

“The campaign to save Friary Grange highlighted the need for this important asset to be available for everyone in the city, but especially for the communities which use and need the leisure centre the most. 

“The chosen site offers a real opportunity to build a modern 21st Century sports centre in the heart of the community of north Lichfield, and to deliver much needed public infrastructure.

“As with any proposed scheme, there will be those who think this is not the right thing to do, it is not in the right place or there are other sites which would be preferable. 

“There will be those who believe that losing any green space is too high a price and that the park should be left as it is, and there will be those who think it will create traffic problems.

“As your councillors we considered all these factors too, but given the alternatives, we believe Stychbrook Park is the very best choice for the location of the new leisure centre.” 

Statement from councillors on plans for new leisure centre in Lichfield

The proposals will go before an overview and scrutiny committee meeting at Lichfield District Council next week.

The councillors said locals would be able to have their say in the future on the potential location of the new leisure centre.

“We do recognise that the views of local residents are paramount.

“If the site is given the green-light we will be working to ensure that the brand-new leisure centre is an enhancement to Stychbrook Park, continues to provide public open space for other activities, retains the tree line along Eastern Avenue, makes good provision for extra traffic and works well in its location for the benefit of all the community.”

Statement from councillors on plans for new leisure centre in Lichfield

Ross

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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30 Comments

  1. What other green flat space is there in east Lichfield if this gets turned over for a leisure centre?
    Why not build it on the scrub land on the other side of Eastern Avenue?

  2. We need the tree line if this does go ahead between the houses and the centre! The noise from this for neighbouring houses will be ridiculous! Especially during the evening. No thought has been given to this at all, the Councillors backing just see it as a ‘look what facilities we have brought to Curborough, Chadsmead!’ No actual thought for the people who live right next to it. The road will be utter chaos and this will have a negative impact on property prices directly next to this.

  3. Perhaps the Councillors would like to tell us what other sites were considered and why they were not suitable, could make a very interesting debate.
    “As your councillors we considered all these factors too, but given the alternatives, we believe Stychbrook Park is the very best choice for the location of the new leisure centre.”

    I think the opportunity should be taken to have it in a central position in Lichfield
    on a brownfield field site and if it takes up the whole of the Birmingham road site, at least it will have been put to good use and not taken up with houses shops Etc.and if the ground is used where the Council offices are then it could become a proper leisure Centre with a small cinema Etc. but with no income from houses it will not be even considered, but it would be very convenient for all residents of Lichfield

  4. @Darryl – where do you mean by ‘scrub land’? My understanding is that the land directly opposite is a nature reserve and fomer landfill unsuitable for building on. One of the issues about Friary Grange is that it is not a pedestrian-friendly site, and I think any new facility shouldn’t require people to cross a 40 mph road. I am sure most patrons will drive to the new leisure centre, unfortunately, but if it can at least be a bit more accessible from surrounding streets and houses, that would be something.

  5. I think it is an excellent location for many reasons, and I’m looking forward to seeing it build. I believe it will enhance the area. And yes – I’m a neighbour. Well done Doug Pullen for getting this far and engaging well.
    There is the first stage in the consultation – you can tune to the Council’s Youtube channel to watch the meeting. The details will be on the Council website, and you can find the email address of your councillor to let them know your views too – positive views are welcome too, I’d imagine!

  6. Being so close to the original Friary Grange LC, the location is perfect for the community it will serve. On behalf of other people like me who can’t afford membership of a private sports club, especially after losing so much income over the lockdown, I say thank you to Councillor Pullen and LDC. Congratulations on being decisive and for showing that you mean to keep your promise to build a new Leisure Centre for the LOCAL community. Let’s hope plans get passed so building can start sooner rather than later!

  7. So pedestrian access to the Friary Grange Leisure centre is an issue? What an utterly absurd and ridiculous argument as a school is already at the location!The majority of people drive anyway.
    The proposed site at Curborough is a terrible and ill conceived proposal for many reasons: Firstly having a Leisure Centre so close to a housing estate when a perfect location is already at Friary Grange makes zero sense. Secondly, destroying a perfect area of green land which is of great benefit to the local community is criminal and in this case totally unnecessary. Finally, and this has been mentioned numerous times, that section of Curborough Road is totally inappropriate for the increase in the volume of traffic that a Leisure Centre would bring. If the entrance were on Eastern Avenue, a roundabout would probably have to be built to slow down the flow of traffic. Again this makes no sense when access to The Friary Grange by road is already fine. Hopefully common sense will prevail and this ill conceived plan will be permanently scrapped.

  8. The only place is on the Cricket Lane Development. St Modwen want to build some of those massive wharehouses. What a stunning way to welcome people to Lichfield via the busiest entrance to the city. Why can’t the new leisure centre be built there instead. Then you are not loosing a green space for the community.
    Lichfield Councilors really need to wake up to the world they live! Is Friars gate going to become another residential village? Or maybe more shops that will be empty. I could go on and on and on….

  9. Will a new Leisure Centre become another “Friarsgate” wonderful ideas, but no substance behind the financial requirement
    Adrian, you have possibly hit the nail on the head as far as the “Birmingham road” site is concerned, I think the Council need to put forward solid plans before they start looking at a site for the Leisure Centre

  10. Let’s hope LDC make sure the funding is in place this time……..we don’t want another Friarsgate…you know….Chuck all the businesses off the land (foregoing any business rates)…..then realise you don’t have the money to build the planned development…..

    3 years later….the site is still unoccupied and boarded up.

    Welcome to the crazy world of bottomless pockets of LDC.

  11. Apologies for not replying to some of these points sooner.

    @Darryl – the proposed leisure centre won’t take up all the flat green space so there will be some of Stychbrook Park available for public access. The council doesn’t own any land on the other side of Eastern Avenue so if some of the £5m set aside had to be spent on land there wouldn’t be enough left to build the leisure centre.

    @H – having trees planted between the houses and the leisure centre (if it goes ahead) is a really good idea. Consideration of traffic will be part of the planning process but it is likely that the only people approaching from the Curborough Road end would be local. Others may be more likely to approach via Eastern Avenue. Empirical evidence suggests proximity to leisure centres actually increases property prices. I’ll dig out a link and post it later.

    @Woody – I think the list is included in a later news story. The criteria looked at were that the council already owned the land and the sire was big enough to accommodate a leisure centre. Problems with other potential sites included being in the green belt (as opposed to just being green space), being in a flood area or conservation area, not being big enough, having no access etc. Birmingham Road isn’t big enough, is in a conservation area (which would mean disproportionate build costs to “merge”), and would present issues with parking – it would have to be paid parking or would fill up with non-leisure centre users.

    @Steve – of course it would be good to hear from anyone with an opinion.

    @resident of lichfield – the city centre location was considered but has problems as noted above.

    @Andrew Steed – pedestrian access at Friary Grange was not and is not an issue. The existing location at Friary Grange is problematic for a number of reasons, not least the ownership and the fact the school now has long term leases over chunks of the facilities. We could argue about academisation and what SCC did, but I think that’s an issue for another day. Having a leisure centre in the middle of the most deprived areas of Lichfield, with the lowest life expectancies, makes sense when you consider the desire has to be to make access as easy as possible. Not everyone has access to a car, so keeping facilities close to the communities they serve is a good idea. The leisure centre won’t take up all the park, so the green space won’t be destroyed. Certainly there will be a reduction in green space but the payback is additional public facilities. Traffic issues will form part of the planning process and it is recognised that access to Eastern Avenue will need to be considered.

    @Adrian – the council doesn’t own the land at the Cricket Lane development.

    @resident of Lichfield – identifying the site is part of the process of putting forward solid plans. Without knowing where the new leisure centre might be, it’s impossible to know what it might be. For example, a leisure centre designed for BRS would have to be different from one at Stychbrook because it’s a smaller site that’s a different shape.

    @Arthur – yes, funding is in place. The cabinet committed £5m last year. This is different from Friarsgate which depended on external funding. But £5m, whilst a substantial sum, doesn’t go very far when you’re building a leisure centre. Hence the need to build on land the council already owns and which is suitable and of the right size. Having to buy land as well would mean no new leisure centre.

  12. My suspicious little mind worries:

    Planning approval given for leisure centre
    Council has no money. Unable to fund leisure centre.
    Developer pops up.
    Changes the planning approval to new homes

  13. @Joanne Grange, with the greatest respect, I would hardly call the properties in Curborough Road, St Margaret’s, St Anne’s, Worcester Close, Truro Close, Simpson Road, Gloucester Close and Field Road etc an accurate representation of ‘the most deprived areas in Lichfield’. That is blatantly untrue and totally inaccurate. Additionally, this location is cannot accurately be described as the middle of the area. I would argue that its location is the periphery of Northern Lichfield. Darryl mentioned that pedestrian access to Friary Grange was an issue. I find this bizarre as a school is already at the location.
    My final point is that I believe that green land is sacred and this park is loved and benefits the whole community. It should only be built on if all other options have been considered to the maximum extent. I don’t believe this has been the case here.

  14. @Andrew – I was referring to the totally of the Chadsmead and Curborough wards not specifically the streets directly abutting the park. Both wards are in the bottom 25% of lower super output areas in the country and, along with a couple of wards in Burntward, are the most deprived areas in LIchfield district. It’s not my assessment – it’s official statistics. I agree that green space is important and the proposed leisure centre will still retain green space – on another story there’s an initial design and this shows an outdoor pitch being retained, along with the wooded area at the boundary with Eastern Avenue.

  15. @Joanne Grange, Thank you for your response, with regard to the size of the site, do you have drawing / sizes that you can share with us
    Is a football pitch a necessity for a leisure Centre?
    You state that the BRS, is a different shape the whole site is a rectangle, what’s different to the park site and as for size their has been discussions with regard to the Council offices being too large and using the whole of BRS including the Office space for the development
    What an opportunity to include the Council Offices in the design of a Leisure Centre, Tourist Centre, Public Toilets, Snack Bar, all as a central hub were our coach visitors Etc arrive, and easy access to all our residents, as for parking as it is a central position, we would all have to get on our bikes, walk, bus, so please don’t use it as an excuse not to use the site
    OR am I being too ambitious!!!!!!
    OR do the Council have other possibly unacceptable ideas for the site!!!!

  16. Thank you for the list of councillors voting in favour of this development, now I know who not to vote for in the next round of council elections. Apart from the visual and noise pollution (traffic, flood lighting, high-rise building) the plan involves covering water absorbing grassland with tarmac, concrete and other impermeable surfaces. The run-off will be greatly increased, leading to even more flooding incidents in and around Watery Lane (where the new housing flooded at the start of this year). Green spaces need to be preserved, not destroyed, and there are alternative, brownfield, sites available. Use this as an opportunity to fill the gaping hole in the centre of Lichfield with a combined park, open space and leisure facilities. That will attract people to the City, not just for the leisure facilities but the bars, cafes and shops will benefit as well.

  17. @Woody – the report for the Leisure committee is available on this link – https://democracy.lichfielddc.gov.uk/documents/s9050/Preferred%20LC%20site%20OS%20FINAL.pdf and gives the size of the whole park at 3.47 hectares. For comparison, the whole of the Birmingham Road site is 3.1 hectares including the bus station, so if that 1.2 hectares are excluded BRS is 1.9 hectares and as this includes the old police station it’s a L-shape. There’s the added complication that the council chamber itself if listed so if the site of the council building was to be included to increase the available size there’d be a chunk out of the corner making the shape even less regular.

    The plans for the BRS are included in the master plan document on this link https://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/downloads/file/1453/draft-lichfield-city-centre-masterplan. Page 39 suggests uses such as a cinema, hotel, commercial, residential and car parking. I’ll let you judge whether these are unacceptable or not, but as far as I’m aware there’s been no final decision on what it will actually be used for.

  18. Yes, thank you Joanne Grange – people may not like the decisions made but, in an increasingly difficult world to see facts, you’ve made them available for discussion here.
    Really appreciate that.

  19. Fabo getting into it again. Never saw him at the gym when it was open. He is an opurtunist looking for votes to keep him in his superannuated non job

  20. Do these councillors even live in lichfield i wonder because their decisions an choices as of late are utter joke.
    Again they want to replace the Friary leisure centre, though theyve been told it would be cheaper to improve the one already there, and has been for decades. Though they the council would like us to believe the alternative. Of course the council would love its hands on extra incentives from the goverment to spend elsewhere….such as their offices at the council an there own expenditures.
    Sumthing needs to change and its this council board members that need to go.

  21. It will be something of a shame to lose Stychbrook Park, as until 6 months ago it was my preferred dog walking location. I say “until 6 months ago”….for it was around Feb this year I caught a glimpse of what I can only describe as a very large black cat strutting in the field opposite – which I think is farmland. This was around 8pm. I’d say the beast was approx 5-6 feet in length, and approx 2 feet high. From where I was standing (scared!), the beast was about 25-30 meters away, strutting diagonally across the field. My dog caught a glimpse of it and was as bemused as me – but showed no appetite for confronting it, which is strange because he usually chases cats. However, after a short growl from my dog, the beast heard us and fixed it’s eyes on us, motionless. After 3 or 4 seconds of eye contact it then ran off at speed toward Elmhurst. I only wish I had my camera with me!! However, after speaking several other dog walkers from the Curburough area, at least 1 other has also seen it – and several others have heard similar stories! I’m so glad it’s not just me!

  22. @Amanda thank you for speaking up and coming forward with this information. It is often easy to remain quiet about such sightings and I hope that you avoid the usual derision from fellow posters. I too am a local dog walker and my partner and I had a similar experience in Elmhurst at the beginning of lockdown. We jokingly labelled the sighting the ‘Elmhurst Prowler’ and thought we must have seen a cat from distance as our experience was very similar to your account. Your post leads me to think otherwise! I wonder what will be uncovered if building work ever begins at this site? Would a special site of scientific interest be disturbed? We have seen enough damage from HS2 to the local native environment, the thought that a wild beast could be evicted from its habitat is upsetting and worrying. I hope this is given further consideration.

  23. @Kitty & Amanda

    I’m so glad other people have seen this too!!!!! I thought I was going mad!! I ride my bike around Elmhurst (Nash Lane area). I’ve been riding quite a bit during the COVID crisis and I noticed something very odd about 3 weeks ago. I was riding along Nash Lane and pulled over to take a phone call. As I was on the phone, I looked to my right and through a gap in the hedge, I noticed a massive black animal in the field. At first I thought it was a huge dog as it moved across the field, it sort of “strutted” rather than walked – like a cat might. I’m pretty sure it had something in its mouth too (possibly a rabbit or small cat?) It walked out of sight and I tired to move forward passed the hedge to keep watching but it sprinted out of view. Presumably it heard me and ran away..?

    I know people may think I’m mad but, I KNOW WHAT I SAW..!!

    I’m just glad other people have seen it too.

    There is so much countryside around where we live, surely it’s possible that a large cat or wolf could survive largely undetected? I know people have also spotted similar things along the A515. Could it have wandered down from the Chase, or the Peak District?? Could it be a lost mountain lion??

  24. I haven’t personally seen it but I know quite a few people who have seen a large black cat type beast. A friend of mine was out walking her Chihuahua “Roxy”, when she heard a yelp and a loud growl, at which point she saw Roxy running toward her whilst being chased by a large black cat. She was terrified and refuses to walk the dog in Elmhurst anymore. Her friends didn’t believe her!! Perhaps this story will make them think twice.

  25. There are a lot of deer of various breeds roaming around the outskirts of Lichfield. I have seen Red deer,fallow and roe deer. At some times of year For deer can look black and they are the size of a large dog.

  26. @Mike

    Yeah – I would have put it down to a trick of the light or something similar too but, this thing was really low to the ground…almost stalking. It was completely black too….. I vividly remember it had quite a small head too! …It 100% wasn’t a deer! I guess if I had to identify it from pictures, it looked most like a panther. Very sleek and aerodynamic. Scared the life out of me.

    I’ve been doing some research on this today and, these sorts of sightings are quite common, with some “big cats” even been found and captured in the UK. Presumably people get them as cute young pets, and get rid of them when they get huge?

    Either way – I’d urge people in Elmhurst to exercise caution.

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