The future of Friary Grange Leisure Centre

Friary Grange Leisure Centre FAQs

Following the release of the statements in relation to the future of Friary Grange Leisure Centre, we have put together the following frequently asked questions.

We will add to these over the coming weeks, in response to any new enquiries we receive.

1. When is the public meeting about the future of Friary Grange Leisure Centre taking place?

Following our announcement that Friary Grange Leisure Centre would be closing in April 2020, there has been a huge community response to the news.

Members, customers and clubs have raised the issue through social media, a community meeting, running a petition and contacting the council, showing just how passionately they feel about having access to a public leisure centre and swimming pool in Lichfield city.

As a result we met with our partners including the county council and the school on 18 July 2019 for positive talks. As a result of our talks all partners made a firm commitment to explore a range of potential options to address the immediate threat of closure, as well as look at future options for more sustainable leisure provision in the district. Whilst an immediate solution was not agreed yesterday, we are all working collaboratively, with an ambition to bring forward a full assessment of all options after the summer. Read the full press release.

A public meeting to allow local people and local groups to have their say will take place on Monday 7 October 2019 - find out more.

2. Based on the current situation, will all of the centre close?

The gym, swimming pool and squash courts will close and the centre will no longer be run as a public leisure centre. We have however been reassured by the school that the sports hall and sports pitches, including the synthetic pitch, will still be available for community use outside school hours after April 2020, through a direct relationship with the school, which is positive.

3. What date would the leisure centre close?

26 April 2020.

4. Could it be kept open a bit longer?

No, unfortunately we cannot keep Friary Grange Leisure Centre open beyond April 2020, as legally our right to operate it runs out in April 2020.

5. What would happen to my membership?

Annual members will be able to use Burntwood Leisure Centre for the remainder of their annual contract, if their membership extends beyond 26 April 2020. If annual members do not wish to use Burntwood Leisure Centre, please speak to Freedom Leisure. At the end of their contract, members will be offered the opportunity to sign-up to a new contract at Burntwood Leisure Centre. The Freedom Leisure team is on hand to help customers with any specific enquiries. Contact the Freedom team at Friary Grange Leisure Centre to find out more.

6. What would happen to the equipment?

Freedom Leisure, who operate the leisure centre, will be offered the opportunity to buy the centre equipment, such as the gym machines, for reuse in other leisure centres they manage. Whatever Freedom Leisure don’t buy will be sold in line with the council’s disposal policy.

7. What would happen to the staff?

Freedom Leisure manage a large number of leisure facilities, including Burntwood and Stafford leisure centres. The team at Freedom will try to redeploy as many staff as possible to other centres. If this is not possible, some posts may be made redundant in April 2020.

8. But there are no other nearby public gyms

Friary Grange Leisure Centre members will be able to use the facilities at Burntwood Leisure Centre, including the gym and swimming pool and current membership rates/concessionary rates will be honoured for the remainder of individual member’s existing contracts. We will not be able to offer subsidies/support to customers who choose to use more costly facilities following the closure. We will also not be able to cover increases in costs for customers who currently receive a concessionary rate. Contact the Freedom team at Friary Grange Leisure Centre to find out more.

9. What about Lichfield Swimming Club and Penguins Disability Swimming Club?

Together with Freedom Leisure, we will be working with Lichfield Swimming Club and Penguins Disability Swimming Club as a priority to attempt to relocate their club to nearby facilities post April 2020.

10. What about private swimming lessons?

Freedom Leisure is working towards moving across the entire learn to swim programme to Burntwood leisure Centre from April 2020. Contact the Freedom team at Friary Grange Leisure Centre to find out more.

11. What about school swimming lessons?

Freedom Leisure will work with current school users to signpost alternative facilities including Burntwood Leisure Centre. Contact the Freedom team at Friary Grange Leisure Centre to find out more.

12. Will you be building a new facility to replace FGLC?

Making sure our local residents have local opportunities to keep fit and healthy remains a priority for us - whether that’s through facilities we provide directly, or through working with partners. We are now working up our options, following the decision to withdraw from Friary Grange, to ensure we can meet our commitments and local people have access to good local facilities in years to come.

13. Will this affect the council's relationship with Freedom Leisure?

The closure of Friary Grange Leisure Centre will not negatively affect our relationship with Freedom Leisure. Freedom has confirmed they are still committed to providing leisure facilities in the district and still wish to manage Burntwood Leisure Centre. The contract with Freedom Leisure allows for changes of this nature.

14. Who made the decision to withdraw from Friary Grange Leisure Centre?

In May 2019 Lichfield District Council had to serve a year’s notice on Freedom Leisure who run the leisure centre on our behalf. To keep the leisure centre open as a public facility beyond April 2020, Lichfield District Council would have been required to take on a new lease for a smaller proportion of the building (the gym, squash courts and pool) with Staffordshire County Council, who own the building.

The sports hall and synthetic pitch will no longer be available to the council, or Freedom Leisure from April 2020, as these will transfer to the school at this date.

The council’s Leisure Parks and Waste Overview & Scrutiny Committee (June 2019) and Cabinet (July 2019) both supported the decision not to enter into a new lease with Staffordshire County Council on the proposed terms, as it was felt it did not represent good value for council taxpayers’ money.

15. Why is Friary Grange Leisure Centre closing?

Lichfield District Council does not own Friary Grange Leisure Centre – it is owned by Staffordshire County Council.

To keep the leisure centre open beyond April 2020, Lichfield District Council would have been required to take on a lease and invest over £440,000 to address urgent issues, including the roof, electrics and boiler, in a building that we do not own.

This investment would only serve to keep the doors open for a finite time, and not offer any enhancements that users would benefit from.

It would require a minimum of £2 million to bring the facility up to modern standards, and this could significantly increase when full structural surveys are carried out.

This does not represent good value for council tax payers and no other parties have offered to invest in any of the repair or remedial works.

16. What is so wrong with the building?

The building is in a poor state of repair and, together with Freedom Leisure, we are delivering patch repairs and ongoing health and safety works, to ensure it remains safe for customers.

This is not a sustainable position, and significant urgent works are required. The pool roof and boilers need to be replaced and many of the internal services, including electricity, need bringing up to modern standards.  

17. Why can’t LDC spend money on it?

Lichfield District Council does not own Friary Grange Leisure Centre. The building is owned by Staffordshire County Council.

It would require in excess of £440,000 as a short-term fix, and a minimum of £2 million to bring the facility up to modern standards.

Investing such a large amount of money in a building we do not own, and which has a finite lifespan, does not represent good value for council tax payers’ money.

18. You have just spent £1.5m at BLC, why couldn’t you have spent that at FGLC instead?

Lichfield District Council owns Burntwood Leisure Centre and was supportive of Freedom Leisure’s plans to enhance it.

The council supported Freedom Leisure’s plans by providing a loan to Freedom Leisure which they are paying back in full over the period of the contract, at no extra cost to the council or tax payers.

19. What will happen Friary Grange Leisure Centre?

The building will be taken back by Staffordshire County Council.

We have also been reassured by the school that the sports hall and sports pitches, including the synthetic pitch, will still be available for community use outside school hours after April 2020, through a direct relationship with the school, which is positive.