Express & Star

Essex blueprint to be used for new Lichfield leisure centre

Lichfield's planned new leisure centre will be based on an existing one operating in Essex, it can be revealed.

Councillor Pullen (right) and Michael Fabricant have disagreed over the council's funding bid

Council chiefs are pressing ahead with a new facility at Stychbrook Park despite the rejection of a £15.7m bid for levelling up funding.

They have unveiled plans to use council resources to fund a £10m leisure centre, which will replace the one at Friary Grange.

And the Express & Star can reveal that rather than use a bespoke design, the authority will use a pre-existing blueprint based on a facility already operating in Essex.

The council says the plan will "maintain the original vision" of the leisure centre, which will feature a 25m swimming pool, an 80-station fitness suite and a spin studio.

It comes amid a war of words over the council's failure to land levelling up cash, with council leader Doug Pullen pushing back against claims from Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant that the council's bid had been "flawed".

A spokesman for the council said: "Lichfield District Council is planning to adopt a pre-existing leisure centre design replicating a facility already operating in Essex. This is in place of a bespoke design.

"The council is, however, maintaining the original vision for the facility which is for a six-lane 25m swimming pool with additional facilities including an 80-station fitness and toning suite, Spin Studio, dance studio and a changing area for outdoor activity."

The spokesman confirmed the scheme will be funded from the council's own resources, "without the need to borrow externally".

Responding to claims over a "flawed" bid, Councillor Pullen said: "The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has not said our bid had a flaw; just that it didn't score highly enough against their criteria to 'win'."

Mr Fabricant had claimed that that a "more convincing argument" was needed to secure the funding. "I am told that flaws in the application meant it did not even reach the minister’s desk for consideration," he added.

Council chiefs will recommend £10m is set aside for the scheme at a meeting next month. It will go to full council on February 28, with work due to start in October if planning permission is granted.

Councillor Pullen said he hoped the new facility would be open by the end of 2024.

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