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Historic Sheffield spa put up for auction despite objections

Birley Spa Bath House
Birley Spa Bath House
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Sheffield City Council have put a valued heritage site up for auction against residents' wishes.

The Grade II-listed Birley Spa Bath House, in Hackenthorpe, is the only remaining Victorian spa in South Yorkshire still set in its original grounds.

Volunteers having a swim in the baths on New Year's Day 2000

Volunteers having a swim in the baths on New Year's Day 2000

It is 176 years old and over that time has been used for educational tours, a pleasure ground for children, wedding receptions, a bathing spot and for community meetings.

But after recent years of neglect Sheffield City Council have chosen to sell the heritage site next month with a guide price in the region of £75,000 to £100,000.

The council's heritage champion has even warned it will "fall down" if action is not taken in the next few years.

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

Then Lord Mayor councillor Marjorie Barker cuts the ribbon at the official reopening of Birley Spa Bath House in 2002

Then Lord Mayor councillor Marjorie Barker cuts the ribbon at the official reopening of Birley Spa Bath House in 2002

Councillor Olivia Blake, cabinet member for finance and deputy leader of the council, said the decision was made as it had been closed for some time and would cost too much for the council to renovate again.

“Birley Spa Bath House is a great building with a proud history and is much-loved by the local community. But that isn’t enough to keep a building of this kind maintained to the standards we would like to see,” she said.

“Unfortunately it has not been in use for a number of years and the council does not have the funds to give Birley Bath House the future it richly deserves.

“We have agreed with the council’s heritage champion and ward councillors that auctioning this building gives it the very best chance of a thriving future.

Maypole dancing at the Victorian day of celebration when the site reopened in 2002

Maypole dancing at the Victorian day of celebration when the site reopened in 2002

“We have been reviewing all the available options and held talks with some interested parties about the former bath house so we are confident that a future for the building can be secured.”

But not everyone agrees the auction is for the best. The Friends of Birley Spa, which was set up to keep the site in public hands, have launched a petition to stop the sale.

So far the petition has reached nearly 200 signatures in two days.

Abby Beckett-Smith, leader of the Friends of Birley Spa, said there is so much interest in the site at the moment that it could see it brought back to life by volunteers.

She said: “Local people are very upset about the possible sale of Birley Spa and want to see the community room brought back into use and the site properly maintained.

“The Friends of Birley Spa want to negotiate with the council with a view to bringing the building back into use for the local community and to see the public heritage tours restart.

“This is a unique site with grounds that could be restored and has potential for all kinds of activities, old and new. It is also part of a Nature Reserve which should be protected for public use.”

Coun Ian Saunders, Beighton ward and heritage champion, said their main priority was to save the building. But warned it was “in a very bad state”, was badly leaking and is likely to fall down in the next two to three years if action is not taken.

He added: “The council takes a very proactive view on the city’s many heritage buildings.

“Birley Spa Bath House was subject of a sizeable heritage lottery grant several years ago but this wasn’t enough to save it. Sadly this is not the only time this has happened.

“We do feel there is a genuine chance that this building can be renovated and maintained and that’s why we are listing it for auction.

“We welcome bids from all interested parties who are able to meet the conditions of sale and have the funding available to repair and maintain this important building.

“Meanwhile our work with partners to create a shared heritage strategy that serves our many historic buildings continues.”

In 1998 the council were given a £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to renovate the site which reopened in 2002. It enjoyed a short-lived revival before it was left to decay again.

The council said the adjoining woodland and the pond will continue to be owned and maintained by them.

It will be up for sale at the Mark Jenkinson auction on Tuesday 4 September 2018 at The Platinum Suite, Sheffield United Football Club, at 2pm.