Category Archives: Community Pools

Sparkhill Pool and Leisure Centre reopening set back to September 2016.

Plans are now being finalised for the rebuild of Sparkhill Pool and Leisure Centre, which closed its doors in 2009 following concerns over asbestos and the steel structure of the building. The facility will include a 25 metre, six lane pool previously used as a training pool for the 2012 Olympics, a learner pool, an 80 station gym, a dance studio, community room and sauna and steam room.

Asbestos removal will start within the next few weeks with completion due by 22nd May. Demolition will commence on 1st July. The facility will be taken on by ‘Places for People Leisure Management’, formerly known as DC Leisure, the company that runs Harborne Pool. This was previously penciled in for January 2016, but we have this week learnt that this has now been set back to 30th September 2016.

The fate of Moseley Road Baths is tied up with the future of the new facility on the Stratford Road. Councillors maintain that swimmers from Balsall Heath will travel to Sparkhill, therefore they intend to close Moseley Road Baths once Sparkhill reopens. We have yet to hear whether the new opening date will result in a reprieve for Moseley Road Baths, or whether Birmingham City Council still intend to close Moseley Road Baths in January 2016.

Friends of Moseley Road Baths have questioned general access and provision for the people and schools of Balsall Heath, transport for schools (especially with more than one coach coming to the site) and the number of cycle places available.

Transport to the new pool is based on a ‘travel plan’ though it is still in draft form in the application on the website. Whilst encouraging the use of public transport, walking and cycling, the travel plan seems devised to disregard the effect that increased car use and parking will have in the vicinity. Clearly, with the difficulty of public transport from Highgate and Balsall Heath to Sparkhill baths, a vast increase in cars to the site must be expected. A traffic impact assessment does not seem to have been carried out and FoMRB have questioned this.

We have also questioned whether women-only sessions in the planned pool can be fully secluded. These sessions have always been an important and growing part of the pool’s programming yet it appears that privacy may not be able to be fully ensured.

The planning application number is 2014/07147/PA and you can find the page online here Online Standard Details and related documents here Northgate DMS :: Document List.

Lobby the Council – bring a placard!

Last year several hundred people, including local school pupils, wrote letters to the Council asking that the Baths reopen for swimming.  A consultation exercise for the HLF bid found quite overwhelming support for swimming in the building.  We’ve received so many messages from people upset that swimming may stop at Moseley Road Baths.  It’s clear that local councillors are not representing the very clear wishes of local people and failing in their duty to provide swimming facilities.

So, just to make them aware of the strength of feeling and to coax them into committing to the future of the building as a public swimming pool, we will be lobbying the:

Hall Green District (constituency) meeting

next Tuesday 22 Jan

12.15pm at the Council House, Victoria Square

We appreciate that this is a mid-week lunchtime, but if you can commit to come along, make a placard etc. then this would be wonderful in demonstrating the opposition that exists to the Council’s policy towards the building.  We know you are a creative and vocal bunch, and the press do so love a pretty picture, so please do what you can!

We Want To Swim! demo - Summer 2011

The case for investing in swimming

We’ve been so heartened by the response that we have received so far from people furious at the news that the Council wants to close Moseley Road Baths for swimming from 2015.  This is particularly frustrating, as they were so close to submitting what looking like being a successful bid, which would have secured the building for another 25 years and made it a viable Heritage and swimming facility.

Pupils banner

Councillors are making the case that they have no money, and have had the gall to cite the equal pay case as the reason for being unable to find the £3million to match fund the bid.  In reality, £3million, to be spent in two years time, over the course of two years, to secure a building for 25 years and to attract £5million to a ‘deprived neighbourhood’ sounds like good financial sense to me (especially when compared to £12million for Harborne Pool and millions spent on the new library).  The alternative is to do unplanned ’emergency repairs’ that can escalate dramatically and eat into other budgets.

Or, the Council could allow this building, situated in the heart of Balsall Heath, to fall into disrepair, and for the area to see its high street become increasingly run down.  A glance over at Stirchley Baths gives an idea of what we could expect.  There is so much hand-wringing over ‘regeneration’ and ‘civic pride’ – the answer is literally on our doorstep.

But surely this is ‘austerity Britain’, and we all have to tighten our belts?  Speaking with one regular swimmer yesterday who relies on swimming for her health, and who is currently battling to retain disability benefits, closing the only local pool to her would lead to a further deterioration of her health.  As cuts bite elsewhere swimming is a cheap, accessible way to improve physical and mental health, prevent isolation, and build the kind of cohesive, supportive community that politicians dream of.

Let’s also not forget that many school pupils in the area are failing to meet the standard for being able to swim a length by the time they finish primary school.  When both pools were open at Moseley Road Baths there was a full programme of school swimming.  Now kids just get a taster, maybe a term a year.  Nothing consistent, not enough to gain the confidence to learn this crucial life skill.  This isn’t about chasing the Olympic dream.  It’s about meeting the national requirements.

Reopen Moseley Road Baths!

Last Autumn when the Heritage Lottery Fund bid was being submitted, I was part of the consultation exercise conducted by Birmingham Conservation Trust.  They were quite overwhelmed by the responses they received.  School teachers were discussing how the building could be used for Science lessons, dancers wanted to use the Gala Pool for performances, students came and practiced their photography there.  I’ve lost count of the number of people who have been in touch wanting to use the building for filming.  And everyone is eager to see some kind of permanent history exhibition there that teaches kids and adults alike about this marvellous building’s history.

So this COULD be viable.  It COULD be something people would travel to visit.  It COULD be a real source of pride for Balsall Heath and Birmingham.  Unfortunately our local councillors just continue to bring shame to our area, with no vision, no commitment to the neighbourhood and no idea of the needs of local residents.  If today’s reaction to the news is anything to go by, they have a shock in store….

Council announce intention to close Baths for swimming

14th January 2013

On Wednesday 9th January, three local Labour councillors, Lisa Trickett, Victoria Quinn and Tony Kennedy, and the Deputy Leader of the Council Ian Ward, met with the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and announced that they saw no long term future for swimming at Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath.

Friends of Moseley Road Baths represent pool users and those who care about the building and the future of swimming in the city and have campaigned hard over many years for the future of this well used Grade II* listed Edwardian swimming pool in inner city Birmingham, described as a “gem” by English Heritage.

Recently the council’s passed up the opportunity to attract several million pounds of Heritage Lottery funding to restore the building, on the basis that the council has no money to match fund. Instead they say they are committed merely to preserve the fabric of the building.  The Friends of Moseley Road Baths believe that swimming is a vital part of its future as a heritage building.

The Group’s Secretary, Rachel Gillies, said, ‘If these councillors were to walk into this facility in their own ward then they would see how busy the building is.  The fact that they would even contemplate closing it for swimming when there is such a high demand shows how out of touch they are with the electorate and how ignorant they are of the need for a facility where people of all ages can come and get fit.’

Closing the facility for swimming would leave local schools without a place to swim, meaning that a majority of local pupils would not meet the national standard for swimming proficiency.

There is a proposed new pool in Sparkhill.  Work however has yet to start. Even with that pool up and running, local schools and residents will not have enough swimming time (especially for women-only swimming which is in high demand).

The Friends are also committed to continued public ownership of buildings such as Moseley Road Baths. These are an asset to the City and belong to all of us.  Jen Austin from the group questioned the consequences of moving the building to a Trust: “At the moment we are able to have a dialogue with elected councillors and present our views. How would this democratic right and accountability be preserved if our pool is run by an independent trust?  “The Friends of Moseley Road Baths urge the council as our elected representatives to listen to the wishes of their constituents. We believe the community want to keep this building not just for its heritage but also as a swimming and sport facility.”

We challenge their decision and will be deciding our strategy this week at an open committee meeting in Balsall Heath.

Talk Commemorates Re-opening of Historic Woodcock Street Swimming Baths

To mark the re-opening of Woodcock Sports Centre following a £5m refurbishment and renovation, the University of Aston is presenting an illustrated talk on Monday October 17th (6:30-7:30pm) about the centre’s 151-year history.

Woodcock Street

Owned and managed by the University since 1980, when it was purchased from Birmingham City Council for £1, the Grade II listed sports centre in Gosta Green is the home of Birmingham’s oldest surviving swimming pool, dating from 1902.

But Woodcock’s history can be traced back almost to the dawn of municipal swimming when, in the 1850s, Birmingham Town Council responded to a public petition calling for the construction of bathing and washing facilities in the town’s northern districts by erecting only the Birmingham’s second set of baths (the first having opened at Kent Street in 1851).

The talk – which is open to the general public and free of charge – will also cover the major rebuilds of 1902 and 1926, when the Gala Pool (now a sports hall) was erected, as well as looking at the 2011 upgrade. Also covered will be Woodcock Street Baths’ rôle as the city’s main municipal laundry, as well as it’s use for winter entertainments such as snooker and boxing tournaments and, perhaps most importantly, for swimming galas, both local, national and international.

The refurbishment and renovation has seen a number of original features restored as well as the creation of a new 120-station gym, new martial arts, fitness and dance studios and the refurbishment of both the swimming pool and sports hall.

Woodcock Street

The talk takes place in Room G11 of the main building, Aston Street (entrance via the main reception doors).

Stirchley Baths photos

We went along to the opening day at Stirchley Baths on 3rd September 2011 – the last day that the building opened to the public before its conversion to a community centre later this year.  The event saw queues out the door and round the building – about 600 people donned hard hats and looked round the building over the course of the day.  Many people also had memories about swimming at Moseley Road Baths!

The baths have sadly been closed for swimming for 23 years; yet another pool that has fallen into a perilous state of disrepair and been ignored for decades. We felt a huge sadness going round what was once a vibrant and well used community facility.  Let’s hope that we never see Moseley Road Baths in such a desperate state.  I hope that these photos act as a catalyst to those within the Council who can decide Moseley Road Baths’ fate that we should never allow such a thing to happen here in Balsall Heath.

Birmingham’s Lido heritage

Amidst talk of cutbacks and closures it’s easy to forget some of the fantastic municipal facilities that Birmingham has run in much harder economic times than those we face today. A recent discussion stemming from a photo of the Cannon Hill Bathing Pool on the Digital Balsall Heath site got a few of us discussing the number of Lidos, open air swimming pools, there used to be in Brum. Wouldn’t it be lovely to take a dip outdoors in this landlocked city?

So, following on from that, Steve Beauchampé has dug out a list of lidos in and around Birmingham over the years. Please let us know if you remember any of these!

Open Air Pools and Lidos in Birmingham and District

  • Brookvale Park, Park Road, Erdington (7th October 1909-1926)
  • Bournville Lido, Oak Farm Road, Bournville (2nd July 1937-c1972 demolished c1976; 1977-1987, demolished 1997) now housing
  • Bournville Men’s Open Baths, Linden Road (1898-c1936/7) now the Settling Pool
  • Cannon Hill Park Bathing Pool (1st September 1873; reconstructed 15th June 1921-1938)
  • Dartmouth Park, Devonshire Drive, West Bromwich (1887-)
  • Keeper’s Pool Lido, Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield (June 30th 1887-1933; 1933-1961; 1961-March 2002) closed and demolished after fire, site now landscaped
  • Greswolde Lido/Pool – behind The Greswolde Hotel/Restaurant, High Street, Knowle, Solihull – now flats, (13th June 1936-cAug 1965)
  • Malvern Hall (or Park) Lido, Malvern Park, Solihull, opened (c1944-c September 1982) now overgrown/derelict
  • Shirley Sports Lido and Swimming Pool, Sansome Road, Shirley; (6th June 1936-1939) now offices
  • Small Heath Park Lido, Small Heath Park (aka Victoria Park) (9th July 1883; reconstructed 14th June 1922-1938)
  • Stechford Lido, Station Road, Stechford (August 1964-1991) now Cascades leisure pool (covered)
  • West Heath Lido (The Bath Tub), Aldridge Road, West Heath (1st July 1937-1940)

A history of ‘Bournville Lane Baths’

As Stirchley Baths prepares to open its doors one last time before the building’s conversion into a community centre, local historian and member of Friends of Moseley Road Baths Steve Beauchampé looks back at the Baths’ history.

Saturday, September 3rd affords what is expected to be the last opportunity for the public to see inside the 100-year old Bournville Lane Baths. Located on the corner of Bournville Lane and Hazelwood Road in Stirchley, work is expected to commence early in 2012 to convert the building into a community centre as part of a financial deal linked to the development of a new Tesco store in Stirchley. The Baths, which closed on March 1st 1988 and which have lain derelict for several years, slowly ravaged by the weather and wildlife, will be open between 11:00am-3:00pm.

Stirchley Baths front

Designed by architect John P. Osborne, Stirchley Baths (as they were originally called) cost approximately £10,000 and were built by E. Crowder of Farm Street, Birmingham on land gifted to the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council by Cadbury Brothers Ltd. At 4pm on July 19th 1910 William Cadbury laid the Foundation Stone and the following July George Cadbury Junior formally opened the building, which is now listed Grade II.

Stirchley Baths changing

Along with Aston and Handsworth, on November 9th 1911 Kings Norton was annexed as part of the Birmingham Extension Order. From this date the facility was known as Bournville Lane Baths. There was a single swimming pool (75ft x 30ft) with spectator gallery, demountable dressing cubicles, 20 private washing (or ‘slipper’) baths for men and women and a small steam (or Vapour) bath, capable of holding six people. There was also a small laundry.

With its distinctive curved single-storey frontage, Bournville Lane Baths was the first of the city’s baths to be connected to the mains water supply and were fitted with a modern circulation and filtration system supplied by Riley’s of Irlam. Located just a few hundred yards from the impressive – and also long decommissioned – Girls’ Baths at Cadburys’, the facility was developed in conjunction with the adjacent public library, while a Friend’s Meeting Hall sits directly behind.

As part of Saturday’s open day members of the public will be invited to become a ‘Friend of Stirchley Baths’, a new group dedicated to ensuring, ‘that the building serves the people of Stirchley for the next 100 years’.

Tour of Stirchley Baths

This just in from a member of the group – more details to follow as we get them!

‘Found out that there will be a last chance to see around inside Stirchley Baths (closed 25 years ago) on Saturday 3rd September between 11 and 3. Council have sold site and other land around to Tesco. There will be a community centre inside the shell of the building (a bit like the Nechells model I suppose) but this is a chance to look at the old cubicles and tiling inside before they destroy it.

It doesn’t say you need to book but they are expecting a great deal of interest….’

UPDATE:

More details on the Bournville News site – apparently last time over 80 people attended and had to queue round the block!  Get there early!

Join us for a ‘swim’

Dear MRB Supporter,

With Moseley Road Baths set to remain closed for the whole of the school holidays we’re inviting you (and if possible, your children) to join us outside the baths at noon this coming Monday, July 25th – the first day of the school holidays – to express disappointment and unhappiness at the continued closure of Moseley Road Baths. We’ll take some photos and are inviting the local press along so bring your swimming costume (not to wear, but to hold up as it makes a much better picture!) and together we’ll try to increase pressure on Birmingham City Council to get the baths reopened for the first time since December 2010.

If you can get along that would be great, if you could tell a friend, that would be fantastic too. We’ll need you for about 15 minutes. Thanks.

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths

Pupils banner

Local pupils have previously made their views known!