Plans for a luxury aqua park complex in the centre of Lichfield have emerged following the announcement that Friary Grange Leisure Centre is to close in April 2020.
Unicorn and Imaginary (U+I Group plc), the development partner behind the defunct Friarsgate project, have released plans for the new swimming pool facility to be located on the current B&M Bird Street car park.
Provisionally called Friary Minster PoolWorld, the scheme has been welcomed by local residents who will be affected by the closure of the Friary Grange pool next year.
Dimbles bather Paul Mycock said:
‘It’s great news that this imaginary water world will soon be within walking distance of ‘spoons. I was expecting to have to take the kids to Stowe Pool for a bath next summer, but it does get a bit crowded in there in the hot weather. And it’s not very convenient for the air ambulance.’
U+I director and former District Council leader Rich Richman commented:
‘We welcome the opportunity to partner Lichfield District Council again in another flagship development in the city. Our shareholders were delighted with the risk-free profits generated by our involvement with Friarsgate.
‘The decision to turn Friarsgate into a car park and to redevelop the former B&M store and car park will be announced by the Council in September followed by a public consultation in November.’
B&M merchandise display organiser Brittney Singleton,19, has mixed feelings, she said:
‘I have mixed feelings. I’ll love to spend an afternoon with my five kids on the water slides but I will lose my job when the store closes. I’ve been offered a position at the brand new store on Eastern Avenue but the commute from Netherstowe three days a week would kill me.’
B&M spokesman Simon Aurora insisted that the Market Street store will not be closing despite the launch of the new store, he said:
‘The Market Street store is not closing.
‘Well not until Lichfield District Council increases its offer for our lease. That will be announced in September.’
Lichfield David Lloyd members actively support the petition to keep Friary Grange Leisure centre open
Following local media reports that Lichfield District Council has decided to close the Friary Grange Leisure Centre from April 2020, social media users have reacted with fury. David Lloyd Lichfield Health and Racquet club members have come out in full support of the online petition to keep the centre open to the general public.
David Lloyd member Paul Mycock was one of the first to sign up, he said:
‘I was one of the first members to sign up to the plebiscite, closing Friary Grange will be a disaster for the general health and well-being of our members.’ Vigorously towelling-off his genitalia in the changing rooms, he added:
‘Imagine the number of Dimbles internees who will apply for the concessionary three-month introductory package at David Lloyd next summer if they can’t take a bath in the Friary Grange Pool. The members-only club will be ruined. I commend this petition to the membership.’
Objections to the proposed closure were equally vociferous in other parts of the City. Fradley mother of three under two-year-olds, Myfanwy Hertz is “gobsmacked”, she commented:
‘I am gobsmacked. I can’t believe that the swimming pool where I learnt to swim as a child ten years ago is closing down, it’s a disgrace. I’ve never been back there since mind you, but that’s not the point. Its part of our history. And what about Friarsgate and Tempest Ford and all the housing around the Saxon Penny and the canal restoration and the plight of elephants in Asia. The world’s gone raving mad.
‘Did I miss anything? Let me check on the comments section of Lichfield Live and get back to you.’
Local politicians have been more restrained in their reactions.
Local Lib-Dem councillor for the Ward in which Friary Grange is situated, Cllr Paul X-Ray said:
‘Thank you for drawing this to my attention, being absent from most council meetings I am often late to the party unless prompted by social media.’
Concerned Lichfield (and Burntwood) MP Michael Fabricant commented:
‘Not my monkey, not my circus,’ he said, appealing to the local Polish electorate. ‘I never go swimming, for obvious reason, so I have no interest in the closure of the Leisure Centre. But as there is a general election coming I am an active supported of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers and commend their commemorative stamps set to the House.’
Recently appointed Conservative Lichfield District Council leader Cllr Red Doug-Pullem has announced that he would like to see £2.4m spent on a new leisure centre rather than patching up Friary Grange. He added:
‘It wasn’t me.’
Cllr Mike Chuckle was unavailable for comment.
Cllr Doug-Pullem’s honeymoon period is due to end in September.
International health club group Virgin Active is expected to bid for Friary Grange and Burntwood Leisure centres following the announcement by Lichfield District Council of plans to abdicate its civic responsibility and off load public assets onto the private sector.
Virgin Active is already operating a successful gym at Wall Island, a health club location that is only accessible by car. General manager Paul Mycock said:
‘Taking on one or both of these leisure facilities would certainly compliment and enhance our local offering. Wall Island caters for the upwardly-mobile, middle class, vigorous penis-towelling, BMW driving pricks on their way to and from their Birmingham offices. Our vision for Friary Grange is that it will be re-branded as a Virgin InActive Centre of Physical Excellence, appealing to local mums who’ve let themselves go after years toiling away in loveless marriages to BMW driving, vigorous penis-towelling husbands.’
Mercifully elected Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Ray said that any moves to outsource the district’s two leisure centres needed to have proven benefits. The Twitter-blocking, BMW-driving Birmingham banking lawyer, councillor for Chadsmead, commented:
‘I can see some real community benefits in a “Virgin InActive” at the Friary Grange site, Mrs Ray certainly fits the demographic and is always keen to get out of the house, especially when I’m there.’
Councillor Andy Smith, Cabinet member for leisure at Lichfield District Council, said he was committed to ensuring any deal worked for local residents. He is particularly concerned to see that any change to Burntwood Leisure Centre is tailored to meet the special needs of the community.
Virgin’s Paul Mycock is up for the challenge, he commented:
‘For Burntwood we are recommending our “Active Virgins” brand. The emphasis will be on high-intensity interval training. It lasts a matter of minutes, leaving plenty of time for high-intensity enjoyment of the centre’s enhanced restaurant facilities offering a wide selection of deep fat fried filth for those who find themselves between meaningful lives.
‘We will retain the swimming bath of course, but we will shift the emphasis from “bath” to “swimming”, there will a complete ban on shampoo and wet wipes in the pool.’
Former Butcher of Burntwood, Steve Norman, who has recently changed his name by deed poll to “Councillor Steve Norman”, said:
‘It’s a load of old bowlocks, I say bowlocks, there’s not been a successful Virgin in Burntwood since 1952. Isn’t that right my love?’
Cllr Sue Woodward was unavailable for comment. [Ed: Really?]