Services affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We are working with our leisure partner, Freedom Leisure, on the phased reopening of our leisure centres that will see Burntwood Leisure Centre reopening on 25 July.
Our leisure, parks and waste management overview and scrutiny committee will discuss a report on the re-opening of the district’s two leisure centres at a special meeting on 16 July 2020. The report will be available later today.
Re-opening efforts will initially focus on Burntwood Leisure Centre, with the experience from that initial phase used to inform decisions on re-introducing services at Friary Grange Leisure Centre.
With so much still unknown about the impact of the social distancing restrictions or what demand will be like, it is important we take a phased approach to re-opening.
This will be disappointing for Friary Grange users. However, anyone familiar with the layout of the centre will understand how difficult it will be to deliver a covid-secure, socially distanced service from there, in the context of the restrictions announced by government. We will work to support our residents to access other leisure opportunities in the short-term.
We will carefully monitor Burntwood Leisure Centre when it reopens on Saturday 25 July, and use this to help inform future decisions.
Frequently asked questions
Why open Burntwood Leisure Centre and not Friary Grange Leisure Centre?
Burntwood Leisure Centre is the busier site, servicing more than three times as many customers as Friary Grange Leisure Centre.
As the larger, more modern site, Burntwood Leisure Centre is better suited to a covid-secure, socially distanced operation.
A greater proportion of Friary Grange Leisure Centre users are older, with more than a quarter of members aged 65 or above. Research indicates older people are more nervous about returning to leisure centres.
Are you going to carry out the essential works while Friary Grange Leisure Centre is closed?
We are proceeding with the contractor selection ready to start the works, but will hold fire until the position relating to leisure is clearer.
Does this mean Friary Grange Leisure Centre will close permanently?
No, at this stage the only decision is that Friary Grange Centre will remain closed until October.
Will Friary Grange Leisure Centre open in October?
There may be a situation where the closure of Friary Grange Leisure Centre extends beyond October – for example if government restrictions make the site unviable or if demand is slow to rebound.
What about the staff who work at Friary Grange Leisure Centre?
Freedom Leisure has written to all its staff across the company to explain that some facilities are re-opening and some are remaining closed during a company-wide phased re-opening process. For this reason some staff will remain furloughed on the government's job retention scheme while others will return to work at centres re-open.
Can I use Burntwood Leisure Centre when it opens if I’m a member of Friary Grange Leisure Centre?
If you are a member of Friary Grange Leisure Centre and you wish to train at Burntwood Leisure Centre, you may reactivate your membership and use Burntwood Leisure Centre.
Are you still replacing Friary Grange Leisure Centre?
Yes. Work to progress the new Lichfield Leisure Centre is progressing at pace.
Why does freedom Leisure need so much money, wouldn’t it be cheaper for the council to run them itself?
No. The council has a contract with Freedom Leisure which represents a very significant saving to when the council previously ran these centres. To bring the centres back in-house would potentially expose the council to further costs and risk.
What about school swimming?
The Staffordshire-wide school swimming service is being reviewed. The delivery of school swimming is a matter for and the responsibility of individual schools.
What about Lichfield Swimming Club?
Freedom Leisure will be working with Lichfield Swimming Club to provide availability at Burntwood Leisure Centre while Friary Grange Leisure Centre is closed.
Is the sports hall and all-weather pitch at Friary Grange Leisure Centre going to open?
These facilities are now managed by The Friary School. Email an enquiry to The Friary School.
Why not open both leisure centres now?
Only re-opening one centre initially mitigates the additional costs and manages the financial risk.
One centre will likely be sufficient to meet the initial demand – which is anticipated to be low.
The continuation of the job retention scheme supports keeping one centre closed in the short term.
This approach reflects the emerging direction of most leisure operators and local authorities who are taking a phased approach to re-introducing leisure facilities and services.
Most sectors, such as libraries, shops, schools and transport, are taking a phased approach to re-establishing services to manage risk.