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.’
Stowe Field has been earmarked as a permanent gypsy and traveller site following the intervention of the Bishop of Lichfield in his Lent Appeal. Set against the backdrop of Lichfield Cathedral and bordering Stowe Pool, Stowe Field has been identified as an ideal site by Tamworth Borough Council.
Cllr Robert Prickhard, 15, deputy leader of Tamworth Borough Council, commented:
‘Lichfield has just taken an enormous dump on Tamworth by swamping us with a planning consent for 1,000 houses on land at Arkall Farm. So in response we have invited Lichfield to accommodate the gypsies, Tamworth no longer has space. Stowe Field will be an ideal location.’
Tamworth’s case is supported by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipcress. In his Lent Appeal the Bishop said:
‘I appeal to you to open your hearts and wallets in generosity as we focus on the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, strangers, aliens and even gypsies and travellers, certainly all people made in the image of God.’
Bishop Michael urged the local community to remember St Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield who died on March 2, 672. He explained:
‘Chad was a Northumbrian, but the people to whom he came as bishop in Lichfield in 669 were Mercians. In a very real sense Chad was coming not to his own people, but to enemy territory where he could have been suspected, possibly resented, even hated. Just like the gypsies.
‘It is a fitting solution to Tamworth’s problems that the new encampment be located at Stowe Field, in the shelter of Lichfield Cathedral and in sight of St Chad’s own church.’
One of the travelling community’s leaders Paul Mycock commented:
‘Stowe Field would be an ideal location, having bathing facilities in Stowe Pool and easy access to the public disabled toilets at Malt and Faro Lounge – for those of us who prefer not to defecate in the kiddies play area.’
Bishop Michael added:
‘God and I commended Cllr Prickhard’s proposal to Lichfield District Council, not least because we live in Shrewsbury.’
On Saturday (March 4) the Community of St Chad will hold its annual service of commitment at St Chad’s Church in Lichfield at 11am, where Bishop Michael will preach.
FiveSpiresLive has not approached anyone for comment.