Sheffield MP "extremely disapointed" at council's decision to sell historic spa
An MP has hit out at Sheffield City Council's decision to sell a Victorian spa and urged the council to stop the process to discuss further with the community.
Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, said he was “extremely disappointed” it was being sold without conditions to continue community involvement.
The Grade II-listed Birley Spa Bath House, in Hackenthorpe, is 176 years old and has been used for bathing, boating, wedding receptions, community meetings, a pleasure ground for children and educational tours.
It is also the last remaining Victorian spa in South Yorkshire still set in its original grounds.
But it has been on a rollercoaster of dereliction and after recent years of neglect the council have decided to sell it at auction next month with a guide price of Â£75,000 to Â£100,000.
Mr Betts said: “There was considerable community involvement at the end of the last century which resulted in the baths being restored and opened for a number of community uses.
"It has always been recognised that this would be a difficult historic building to use and to maintain without significant subsidy.
"However, I am bound to say that I am very disappointed by the city council's recent actions, resulting in the decision to sell the baths at auction with no community use nor any access conditions.
"I am now urging the council to halt the disposal process and to give assurances that there would be no further action pending serious discussions with local and historic interest groups with a view to finding a consensus about the best way forward."
The Friends of Birley Spa have also spoken out about the auction and launched a petition to stop it.
So far it has reached over 200 signatures in three days.
The group 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.”
The council said it will be sold on a 250-year lease with conditions. They said this will ensure the buyer repairs the building within two years. But heritage experts have warned it will not be compatible for another use.
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.
“Unfortunatley 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.
“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.”