Give us chance, group says in bid to save Sheffield’s historic bath house
A community group fighting for the survival of a historic Sheffield Victorian bath house is appealing for a chance from the council to prove that they have what it takes to run it.
Friends of Birley Spa said their business proposal was initially welcome by the cabinet at the start of their campaign, but became stagnant due to delayed response by the council.
And things have taken a turn for the worse after the council set an August 10 deadline for the group to place a bid to secure the building.
Cabinet member Paul Wood also said the council and the friends group have failed to reach an agreement which would see them take on the run-down Hackenthorpe site, or the council will start working with others who have come forward with plans for the building.
This, he said, would include use of part of the building for ongoing community use.
But the group's secretary Victoria Wise said their business plan which was first presented to the council on March 22 to run it as a non-profit organisation and it was "very well received".
She said the group had a meeting with former Neighbourhoods and Community Safety Coun Jim Steinke, Coun Paul Wood and Sheffield MP Clive Betts on March 29, where they were promised a letter that would allow them to apply for funding.
"At the end of this meeting we were promised a letter, which Mr Betts himself tried to chase up a few weeks later. We never received it. We never saw Coun Jim Steinke again, he was replaced by Coun Paul Wood.
"On June 28, at the start of our meeting Coun Paul Wood said the council were prepared to send us a 'head of terms' letter, that would enable us to apply for funding, if we had a business partner. We do.
"The council will now not accept our business plan unless it has the words 'office' or 'residential' in it. It does not," she said.
Ms Wise said the group have also asked for an extension on the deadline following a meeting with Mr Betts on Tuesday.
"But we are still waiting on that decision," she said, adding that they have the backing of many similar groups in Sheffield.
"We are not experts, we are not business people, we have never pretended to be. We are a group that believe passionately in Birley Spas' place in the heritage and community of this city.
"We know what we can achieve, we just need the Council to give us a chance to prove it." she said.
Birley Spa Bath House - a 177-year-old Grade II-listed Victorian property - was put up for sale wit a guide price of around £100,000 without consulting the public, the campaigners said.
This triggered backlash from the community and subsequently led to the setup of a friends group to fight to keep it in the public's hands.
Ms Wise said the group are organising a community get together on July 28 at the bath house site to send a strong message to the council that communities and heritage matter to the people of Sheffield.
Beighton councillor Bob McCann has also expressed his support for the group and believed that the community should be given a more active role in the future of the bath house.
He said: "Heritage in Sheffield needs to be protected and the local community want to help do this. It's a travesty that the Labour council have continued to ignore local residents - only paying them lip service.
"I want to see the local community - and local councillors - fully involved and informed in how we can protect Birley Spa Bath House.
"As a local councillor for Beighton, I haven't received anything. The council cannot continue ignoring local councillors and local people. Things need to change."