Sheffield Council turn the heat on campaign group to bid for historic Birley Spa bath house

‘Time is running out’ for a community group to take on the running of a historic Sheffield Victorian bath house, council bosses have said.

Monday, 15th July 2019, 5:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 6:29 pm
Birley Spa bath house

Cabinet member Paul Wood has said the council and the Friends of Birley Spa Group have failed to reach an agreement which would see them take on run-down Hackenthorpe site.

Birley Spa Bath House - a 177 year old Grade II-listed Victorian property - was put up for sale with a guide price of around £100,000 with ‘no consultation’ campaigners said.

This sparked outrage in the community and the friends group was set up to fight to keep it in the public’s hands.

Local authority bosses then decided to postpone the sale for further talks with the friends group in which an ‘asset of community value’ application was accepted on the building.

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But council chiefs have given the group a deadline of August 10 to bid for the building. The friends group said the council ‘promised to keep the Bath House and lease the building to them’ so they could run it as a non-profit organisation.

The group’s secretary Victoria Wise said the council had ‘moved the goalposts’.

Council bosses said the ‘asset of community value’ bid only postponed the sale of the building for six months to ‘give the community group chance to put forward its own bid’.

Labour Birley ward councillors Bryan Lodge, Karen McGowan and Denise Fox said they were ‘not aware’ of the letter informing the group of an August 10 deadline and urged council bosses to give the group more time.

Councillor Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “I have a real concern for this building’s survival and have had to take action so Birley Spa does not have to endure another winter where the damage increases.

“Regrettably, despite several meetings with the Friends of Birley Spa, we have been unable as yet to agree a viable plan for its future use. I’m hopeful that this deadline enables them to come forward with a commercial partner to make the repairs that this building needs so its journey back to being part of the community can continue.

“If the Friends Group can’t develop a proposal we will start working with others who have come forward with plans for the building. I am very keen that these plans include use of part of the building for ongoing community use.”

Birley Spa is a community bath hall and a Victorian bathhouse in Hackenthorpe, built in 1842. In the 1920s and 30s, the grounds were transformed into a playground for children.

In 1998, Sheffield Council was given a large grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the place to its former glory but after a short-lived revival in 2002, the site once again fell back into disrepair.

It was used for bathing, boating, wedding receptions, community meetings and educational tours but the council had said the necessary renovation work was too expensive.

It is one of the last remaining Victorian bath houses in the north of England.