A councillor has said that revamping Friary Grange Leisure Centre is “not the answer” for Lichfield in the long term.
Members of Lichfield District Council’s cabinet unanimously backed a move to make Stychbrook Park the preferred site for a new leisure centre at a meeting earlier this week.
The move comes after a community campaign to keep leisure provision in the city.
As a result the local authority has given a short term commitment to Friary Grange, with a long term plan to build a new site elsewhere – that location now likely to be Stychbrook Park.
Cllr Richard Cox, cabinet member for leisure and parks, said the council needed to look to the future after some residents questioned why the existing site could not be home to a replacement facility.
“What do you do with Friary Grange Leisure Centre? Constantly sticking plasters over it is not the answer.
“Even if you were to somehow come to an agreement, you are still sharing a site and it will still have constraints.
“This new centre will move away from that and we will have a modern facility that is not more than 50 years old.
“I do think Stychbrook Park is the right site for us and I am comfortable about putting a leisure centre on that piece of land as I see it as a sports and recreational area in that sense.”Cllr Richard Cox
The future of Friary Grange Leisure Centre was thrown into focus after parts of the facility were handed over to The Friary School as part of its move to become an academy.
Cllr Robert Strachan, cabinet member for finance, told the meeting that retaining the centre in the current spot wasn’t an option.
“The most convenient site is where it currently is, but we don’t control that site and the school want us off so that door is closed to us.
“Stychbrook Park is the most appropriate site because of previous sports and recreational use on there.”Cllr Rob Strachan
“We are seeing the best site”
Residents have been critical of the plan to build on the current park which is home to two football pitches.
But Cllr Cox said the fact it had been used for sport meant it was a suitable location for a new leisure centre.
“Stychbrook Park is an existing sporting facility in my mind rather than a designated open space because obviously there are two football pitches there.
“Knowing the work that the cross-party task group have gone through I think we are seeing the best site.
“I’m sure there’s people who would want us to consider other locations, but this is something that’s within our own tenure.
“If we were to look at other sites beyond our tenure, we will exceed the timescale to provide an alternative centre as promised.”Cllr Richard Cox
The council has earmarked £5million to help develop the new leisure centre in Lichfield.
Cllr Liz Little, cabinet member for major projects and economic development, said the local authority would still need to tackle the issue of funding for the scheme to go ahead.
“Cost is a bridge we will have to cross and that is a question we will have to answer.
“But we are at the current time committed to building a replacement.
“We know cost will be an issue but we will do our utmost to overcome that.”Cllr Liz Little