Councillors say Lichfield cannot afford to see another major project fail to materialise after concerns were raised over how a new leisure centre in the city would be funded.
A meeting of Lichfield District Council last week heard a funding gap of £6.65million posed a “substantial risk” to the proposals for Stychbrook Park.
But Cllr Paul McDermott and Cllr Paul Ray, Lib Dem representatives at Lichfield City Council and Lichfield District Council respectively, said in a joint statement that residents should not be let down again by those responsible for the future of the city.
“The leisure centre at Stychbrook Park will be a real boost to north Lichfield which contains some of the most deprived areas in Staffordshire.
“However, we can already hear noises from the Conservatives that they may not be able to raise the funding for the new leisure centre and we see this as a matter of grave concern.
“This project must not fail due to a lack of proper preparation.
“We cannot afford to have yet another scheme stalled part way through the process. Lichfield District Council must produce and implement a coordinated funding strategy for the various planned projects.
“For example, the council owns all the land opposite Lichfield City station – now known as the Birmingham Road site – and we say that a part of that site should be used to build affordable town flats and houses which will generate funds for the council.
“Surely income from this and other developments on the site could then be used to part fund the leisure centre?
“Lichfield residents have already expressed their view that a leisure centre in the city is a priority. If the Conservatives will listen to these residents – and share the view that the leisure centre is a priority – they will find the money.”Cllr Paul Ray and Cllr Paul McDermott
Cllr Ray had previously suggested the Birmingham Road site – which had been earmarked for the failed Friarsgate city centre redevelopment – could be a potential home to the new long term replacement for Friary Grange Leisure Centre, but such a proposal was ruled out by council chiefs.
The Stychbrook Park location was chosen after an analysis of locations owned by the district council.
Cllr Ray said he understood why some were opposed to the plans to build on the green space, but said it was the best option of those put forward by the local authority.
“The Lichfield Lib Dems support the proposals for the new leisure centre at the Stychbrook Park site. What is proposed is not perfect and we realise that this location will produce some opposition from local residents.
“But it does ensure that Lichfield will have a new leisure centre – something for which the Conservatives originally had no plans. It took the power of the community to change their minds.
“The centre must be built on land owned by Lichfield District Council, otherwise the additional cost of buying the land will make the scheme unviable.
“The Lib Dems have promoted locating leisure facilities on the vacant Birmingham Road site, but this did not have the support of the Conservatives and the consultants who produced the masterplan report.
“Seven other sites were considered, and we accept that the proposed location at Stychbrook Park is the best of those options.”Cllr Paul Ray