It would be too costly to build a new leisure centre on the site of the failed Friarsgate development in Lichfield city centre, councillors have been told.
The land – now renamed as the Birmingham Road Site – was one of eight locations considered for the long-term replacement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre.
But with Stychbrook Park now identified as the preferred location for the new facility, an overview and scrutiny committee meeting was told the city centre option would have proven too costly.
Cllr Liz Little, cabinet member for major projects and economic development, said:
“Birmingham Road Site was identified as a possible site, but following the analysis it was not favourable for a number of reasons.
“It is situated in a conservation area which would inherently increase the build costs.
“Parking would also be an issue in a city centre location, and the site has already been identified for other purposes in the approved city centre masterplan.”Cllr Liz Little
Liberal Democrat representative for Chadsmead ward, Cllr Paul Ray, has previously called for the former Friarsgate site to be considered as the site of a new leisure centre in Lichfield.
But while he has backed the current proposal, he said he hoped to see the reserve option kept on the table in case the planned location is found to be unsuitable.
“I’m on the task group for the new leisure centre and it is clear that Stychbrook Park is the preferred option.
“I do fully support his – I’m on the task group and it is the clear preferred option.
Although I support Stychbrook, two other options I thought might be viable options if this didn’t go ahead. First one was I asked about Beacon Park because there are locations that were considered. Other one was BRS which I think should be left as a reserve.
“But the Birmingham Road Site does offer a fantastic central location and the infrastructure is very strong.
“I do appreciate there are some challenges with it, such as build costs, but there is a potential positive in that our city centre is having to be reinvented – we knew that anyway and COVID-19 has brought that even more into the spotlight.
“A leisure centre in the city centre could have be real catalyst in driving footfall.”Cllr Paul Ray
“”The Birmingham Road Site will be in reserve”
Cllr Little confirmed that the land left derelict by the failed Friarsgate scheme would remain an option.
But she added that any move to introduce a leisure centre into the plans would pose other problems.
“The Birmingham Road Site will be in reserve – but there are concerns over that site.
“Putting a leisure centre in a city has been known to rejuvenate centres, but it would take up almost the entire footprint of the site.
“The houses we were designating for that site would also be in very, very close proximity to what would be a very, very large leisure centre.”Cllr Liz Little
A decision on the preferred location for the new leisure centre will be made by the council’s cabinet in October.