As agreed at the last Friends meeting three of us met with Cllr Holbrook the newly appointed Cabinet member for Skills, Learning and Culture. We hoped that she would be able to update the group on progress made since the previous meeting with the Council. In particular we hoped for a report back on the work of Council Officers in pulling together a working group from both within the Council and relevant external bodies to look at future possibilities for the building.
Jenny Austin, Joe Holyoak and Mark Gunton raised various points. This included seeing the Baths as part of the overall development plans for Moseley Road, and the negative effect a closed up building would have in the area. We also asked for an update on the proposed rebuild at Sparkhill Baths, but no information was available. We pushed the importance of the Heritage aspects of the building, trying to encourage interest in the national ‘Historic Pools Network’, and asked Councillors to attend some of the many arts events taking place at the Baths over the next few weeks.
Cllr Holbrook repeats what we have heard from all the Councillors: swimming is not viable at Moseley Road Baths, it is not part of the Council Leisure plans. Cllr Holbrook understands the historic importance of the Pool but uses a familiar argument – the money isn’t there. We will meet again but there is no fixed date at present.
This response from the Council after over a year of trying to meet with them to discuss their future plans for the building and address the concerns of swimmers and residents is unacceptable. Despite meeting after meeting where promises have been made to dedicate Council resources to looking at viable options for the building, there is clearly no movement. Instead, group members have dedicated their time once again to briefing a Councillor on the basic issues. With the closure date for the building still earmarked for late next year it is crucial that supporters keep the focus on the building. You can e-mail Cllr Holbrook directly at Penny.Holbrook@birmingham.gov.uk.