Community raise money to buy historic spa

Heritage campaigners have launched a crowdfund in a bid to buy a historic spa from Sheffield City Council at auction. 

The Friends of Birley Spa are aiming to raise at least £70,000 so they can keep the Grade II-listed Birley Spa Bath House, Hackenthorpe, in the community’s hands and have set out their plan for the future.

The fund was set up by Christopher Olewicz, of the Friends of Birley Spa, who said the group intend to ensure the future of the spa as a public asset and save the building and plunge pool from developers.

He said: “The spa currently stands empty, but has huge potential as a community asset for the residents of Hackenthorpe, Sheffield and beyond.

“It provides an opportunity to bring new employment to the area, at a time when areas across the city are suffering from a lack of community cohesion.

“There is however, the possibility that a sale or handover can still be arranged with the council if they can be persuaded that the best interests of the building lay in a community handover.

“One of the best ways we can do this is to maximise the number of investors, showing how widespread support is for the building to remain in public hands.”

The group have so far raised £530 since starting.

If they hit their target, the plan is to set up a Birley Spa Community Society which will work to renovate the bath house.

They also plan to make it available to the community again for ceremonies, events, meetings, musical performances and possibly boating activities and offer opportunities for people to learn new skills.

Anyone who donates £10 to the crowdfund will get a membership to the society, if enough is raised, and will be able to vote on the future of the spa at meetings.

In a leaflet outlining the Friends plans they said: “Although the pace of events has necessitated the Friends of Birley Spa to move quickly in organising a crowdfunder, its members are able to draw on the experience of those community volunteers who ran the spa successfully for many years as a heritage venue.

“The Friends recognise however, that in order to ensure the long term future of the building, the spa needs to be able to survive as a commercial entity in order to avoid a similar decline in the future.”

The Friends said if the target is not met, all donations will be refunded.

The bath house is 176-years-old and is the last remaining Victorian spa still set in its original grounds in South Yorkshire.

In 1998 Sheffield City Council was given a large grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the site to its former glory. But, after a short-lived revival in 2002 when it reopened, the site once again fell back into rack and ruin.

After recent years of neglect the council decided to sell the spa. It is currently going to auction on September 4 with a guide price of £70,000 to £100,000.

The council said to safeguard the building it will be sold with a 250-year lease with conditions to ensure the buyer repairs the building within two years.

But many are concerned that after the sale it the community will no longer be able to use the site.

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