Sheffield's historic spa may be sold off

The future remains uncertain for a historic spa in Sheffield which is at risk of being sold off by the council in a month’s time.
The Birley Spa Bath House, off Birley Spa Lane, Hackenthorpe. The Birley Spa Bath House, off Birley Spa Lane, Hackenthorpe.
The Birley Spa Bath House, off Birley Spa Lane, Hackenthorpe.

The Friends of Birley Spa say they received an e-mail from Sheffield Council informing them that they needed to place a bid by August 10 in order to secure the building.

The group's secretary Victoria Wise said the move came despite an assurance by the council in a meeting last month that they would lease the Grade II-listed Birley Spa Bath House to the group, allowing them to run it as a non-profit organisation.

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"In our previous meeting, the council said they wanted to offer us the building and look at what sort of business we could generate so the income could be put back into the building,” she said.

"But we were told that our business plan wasn't viable enough so they gave us other options and would get back to us in five weeks’ time to discuss future business plans that we may have.”

Ms Wise also said raising funds and getting sponsors had been difficult as they needed to have an official letter from the council to prove where the money was going.

"Now it seems like they have moved the goalposts," she said.

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The bath house was the focus of a campaign last year when the council sought to sell it with a guide price of up to £100,000 without consulting the public.

This had sparked outrage and led to the setting up of the friends group with the goal of keeping it in public ownership.

Victoria said the group was previously told they needed to raise £200,000 for repairs and £30,000 a year to keep it running.

Birley councillor Bryan Lodge said he and other local politicians Karen McGowan and Denise Fox had not been made aware of the new letter.

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"At the last meeting Karen and I attended, we thought we'd agreed a set of actions so this letter was much of a shock to us as everyone else. We will continue to press the council to hold back on this decision to give the Friends more time.”

The 177-year-old bath house is the last remaining Victorian spa still set in its original grounds in South Yorkshire.

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.

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It was set to go under the hammer in September last year but the council decided to postpone the sale for further talks, as the group successfully made the site an asset of community value.

The council was approached for comment.