UPDATE: We’ve received a response to our letter.
Dear Councillor Doug Pullen
Delayed re-opening of Friary Grange Leisure Centre
It was extremely disheartening to see the Leisure, Parks & Waste Management (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee confirm the recommendation to delay the opening of Friary Grange Leisure Centre until October at the earliest, with the final decision appearing to rest on the performance of Burntwood Leisure Centre.
The main grounds for this decision appear to be:
- Cost savings of just £47,000 compared with a July opening date
- Burntwood Leisure Centre would be sufficient to meet demand
- The rate of returning patrons is likely to be lower at Friary Grange as more users are ‘older people’
- Friary Grange is smaller and social distancing restrictions will mean it has limited capacity
- Verbal concerns over the safety of residents in using the Leisure Centres
We dispute these grounds and believe the following factors must also be considered:
- The cost savings from a delayed opening are minimal, and there has been no consideration of ways to mitigate these costs
- As demonstrated during last year’s campaign to Save Friary Grange, Friary Grange users will not or cannot travel to Burntwood Leisure centre and the facilities for disabled users are better at Friary Grange
- The ‘older people’ who are members of Friary Grange are not the only users of the centre. There is no evidence in the report that any Friary Grange users have been asked if they would be returning and we are surprised that this isn’t supported by an Equality Impact Assessment
- It is accepted that Friary Grange is a smaller facility but social distancing will be possible and there is the opportunity to use the space more imaginatively
- The verbal concerns over the safety of residents would be better addressed by opening both centres and making full use of the available space. In addition, there was verbal assurance given at the meeting that Lichfield District Council has full confidence that Freedom Leisure can operate leisure centres in accordance with new safety regulations
- The guidance by Sport England on running leisure centres is very precise on minimising health risks and has been accepted by HM Government to allow reopening of centres.
The report indicates support would be given to Friary Grange users during the continued closure but gives no indication of what this support would be:
- There is no recognition of the increased costs in time and money Lichfield residents would have to bear to visit Burntwood.
- There is no assessment of the environmental impact of this increased travel against the recently declared Climate Emergency.
- There is no consideration of the actual practicalities of visiting Burntwood by public transport against HM Government’s advice which still suggests public transport should be avoided given the difficulties of social distancing.
The proposed extended closure flies against the commitment and understanding of the need to retain leisure facilities in Lichfield as agreed by Lichfield District Council last year.
We are asking for a public and firm commitment for the following:
- Reassurance that full closure is not back on the table, and that Friary Grange Leisure Centre will reopen
- Lichfield District Council and Freedom Leisure will work with the clubs, Friends of Friary Grange, staff and users to safely reopen the centre in line with the timetable for Burntwood reopening, with recognition that this may necessitate a phased reopening with the pool reopening first whilst firm plans are made for the rest of the centre.
- A restated commitment to undertaking the improvement works at Friary Grange
- A restated commitment to the provision of a new leisure centre in Lichfield
Lichfield District Council made a decision last year to refurbish Friary Grange Leisure Centre and to build a replacement centre within a 5 year period. Residents are trusting their council, and you as Leader of that council, to deliver that commitment. We look forward to working with you to make that happen.
Friends of Friary Grange Leisure Centre and 260 others including Richard Hill, Matthew Wilson, Joanne Grange, Rachel keogh, David West-Mullen, John Pearce, Leela Cubillo, Richard Brooks, Simon Partridge, Sheila Jones, Jane Williams, Nicola Templeton, Hannah Gallimore, Derek Upton, Sarah Whitehead, andrew Rushton, David Badcock, Andy Templeton, Dave Robertson, Darryl Godden, Gavin McAndrew, Margaret Barratt, Gary Vegas, Sarah Dale, Ann Schwarzenbach, Barbara Anne Marshall, Anne Hill, Sally Greene, Carol Ingham, Kim Rochelle, Laura Hancox, Kathleen Grange, Richard Henshaw, Peter Hancox, Dave Cannell, Helen floyd, Daniel Floyd, Michael Hartley, Ann Hughes, Malcolm Flanagan, Alan Weaver, Ritesh Narshi, Linda Young, Fiona Conway, Fardon Mark, Linda Farnsworth, Ann Brooks, Mr John McGoldrick, phil Sutcliffe, Laura murphy, Scott russell, Sally Keen, Linda Mrs Flanagan, Eileen Smith, Colin Ball, Claire Craddock, Craig Smith, Lisa Dillon, Trudy Asson, brian pretty, Polmear, R cherrington, Melanie Pinson, Lindsey Reeve, Samantha Field, Charlotte Morley, Kathleen Evans, Hilary Richardson, Roger Hornsby, Mike collins, James Blackman, Charlotte Faulkner, Benjamin Watkins, Jill Tracey, Ruth Needham, Tim Keeling, Margaret Inglis, Teresa McCarthy, Clare Wright, Anna Delves, Sharon Coleman, Fiona Dearn, Celeste Morrissey, Lisa miller, Javier Jimenez, Bev Bishop, Pete Hoare, Robert lewis, Pete Hoare, Martin McQuaide, James Millington, Angelique Wood, Marilyn Masters, Paul Ray, Penny lee, Alan Deane, Christine McDermott, Dave Denison, Matthew Field, Cath Pendlebury, Corinne wallader, Robyan, Allison Leonard, Ken Knowles, Emma Hawes, Rosalind Chapman, Caroline Fellows, Stephanie Smith, Rosemary Smith, Alison Edwards, Fiona Campbell, Amy Gathergood, Richard Gathergood, Don Palmer, Helen Dickinson, Amy Mulholland, Ant Doody, Sue Carrington-Porter, Victoria Eadie, Sarah Young, Amanda Wayman-Chiles, Lynne Hinsley, Alistair Manson, Ben Hurst, Sara turrell, Felicity Thomas, Catherine Hancox, Clare, M hartley, Hazel Toovey, Scott Hale, Katherine Nokes, David Smyth, Paul Bradley, Osahon Orchard, Geoffrey Haigh, Hayley Bourne, Clare Roberts, Annabel, Pam Beale, Andrew McCurdy, Ken Smith, Olga Jean Thomas, Liz Bowers, Graham Jarman, Jayna Narshi, Heather Harry, Lisa Tinwell, John Davey, Jayne Phelps, Rachel Bentley, Claire Pinder-Smith, Adele Beattie, Julia Copeman, Paul Flanagan, Emily Bacon, Tracey Wiliams, Janet Waterfield, Jamie Checkland, Sally-Ann Hurst, Sian Thompson, Ann Morrison, Sarah Clark, James Aston, Graham Burrows, Colin Bridle, Peter Hancox, Hugh Ashton, Arthur, Colin Beresford, Jennie Holt, Ron Laishley, Stephanie Skelton, David Sanderson, Sophia Nakhooda, Christine Cheadle, Nichola Allsobrook, Richard Allen, John Coombes, Cathy Chilinski, Jenny Trivett, Steven Gould, Craig Watson, Rebecca Stevens, Margarite Burnell, Juliet Jackson, Kate Crossfield, Katy Harrison, Sally ilott, Emma Parks, Leela Cubillo, Penny Norton, Chris Norton, Emma perks, Sarah Clayton, Heidi Neenan, Julie Wilson and Fiona Stephenson.
We’ve closed the open letter now. See Cllr Doug Pullen’s response here.