A few reactions to recent news…

Thanks so much for all your supportive comments in response to the reopening of the Baths being delayed once again. We thought that it was appropriate to share some of your thoughts – please do keep them coming via e-mail or using the comments section below. We know full well how passionate you all are about the building and swimming, but feel it’s important that we convey this to others as well. So, here are a selection of your comments:

  • This seems to be poor management again. Is it deliberate incompetence?  Perhaps officers should be personally liable for the results of ongoing neglect of this important building.
  • Perhaps ‘they’ should have the lost revenue from the Baths being closed stopped from their salaries
  • Sad to see the reopening date keeps going back (now April/May).  It’s as though any excuse (now flaking paint) to delay opening.
  • Councillor Kennedy asks does the pool sit as a sport or heritage site – I say it must sit as both.  Keep up the pressure on them. This building must not be allowed to close as a pool.
  • Labour Councillors want us to believe that lead paint was being used in 2004?  They must think we’re mugs!
  • Anyone fancy a sweepstake on next excuse for not opening the Moseley Rd baths. My moneys on a blown light bulb in reception.
  • Hmm, did they confirm which year? Let’s hope it’s 2012. This family needs to swim.
  • Thanks also to Moseley Shoals who sent us an e-mail outlining the impact the closure has had on their swimming club, making it nigh on impossible to swim as a club.

Of course, using this blog is nowhere near as effective as the public contacting the press and Councillors directly – follow this link for details of Councillors.  Hall Green Constituency Councillors will be voting on the options in March, so please address e-mails to them.  Cllr Tony Kennedy chairs the group and Cllr Martin Mullaney is the current Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture.

Latest update on closure of Moseley Road Baths

We have received the following update from Cllr Martin Mullaney, BCC Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture:

Update on Moseley Road Baths – 19th January 2012

The final phase of re-opening the baths began on Monday 16th January with contractors moving into the basement to begin work. They will be replacing temporary scaffolding that holds up the floor in numerous places, with permanent scaffolding. This work will take four to five weeks to complete and we are hoping that the baths should be able to re-open at the end of February.

What has confused the issue and the reason for the sudden announcement that the baths won’t re-open until April or May, is concern over flaking paint from the ceiling in Pool 2. Users of this pool prior to its closure in December 2010, will have noticed the flaking paint even then. It was particularly bad on the lower sections of the curved ceiling, on the right hand side as you entered the pool (see the photo here).

The pool was last painted in 2003 and the flaking paint was due to the very high humidity in the pool area, which was caused by the staff not turning on the mechanical ventilation fans whilst people were in the pool. The staff wouldn’t turn the fans on, because they were very noisy due to worn bearings. The bearings have now been replaced and hopefully such rapid flaking of the paint will not happen again.

Since the closure of the pool in December 2010 and the resulting dryer atmosphere, the paint flaking has accelerated to such an extent that officers in Hall Green constituency are concerned that flakes may fall into swimmers eyes. The staff in the pool have removed most of the flaking paint, but some still exists in the harder to reach parts of the ceiling.

To completely repaint the ceiling would cost £65,000 and take over six weeks to complete, thus taking the re-opening up until April or May. We have £80,000 ‘sticking plaster’ money which could fund this re-painting, however I would rather focus this money on fixing the roof of leaks – especially after all the recent lead thefts – and keep this building going until its big restoration in 2014.

Mindful that the pool has been closed for over a year and being quite familiar with the level of flaking, I have disputed the need to repaint the entire ceiling. As a result, I attended a meeting this morning with a Health and Safety officer to decide if the flaking paint was a concern. The officer said that the level of flaking is not of concern.

As a result of this, I have stressed to officers that the pool must re-open once the basement work is finished at the end of February. We will repaint the worse affected lower sections of the ceiling and this must be completed by the end of February. The rest of the £80,000 must be focused on the roof and again these roof works must not delay the
re-opening of the pool at the end of February.

Cllr. Mullaney’s website also carries a report of Tuesday’s Hall Green Constituency meeting.

And here’s a report from the Birmingham Post.

Baths to reopen in January?

Update from Cllr Martin Mullaney – it seems that the Baths may be due to reopen in January after all, despite a letter from Cllr Mullaney dated 18th October where the date for reopening was put at the end of February 2012!  Images of the work being done on the Baths plus notes can be viewed here, here and here.

Update on Moseley Road baths –1st November 2011

I attended a meeting this morning with the contractors who are presently working on re-opening Moseley Road baths. The good news is that we are still on target to re-open the swimming baths in mid to late January 2012.

In addition I successfully managed to persuade the Finance department to fund an addition £195,000 of work on the baths – more details on this in a bit

My last blog update was on 29th September and can be seen at http://martinmullaney.blogspot.com/2011/09/update-on-moseley-road-baths-29-th.html

The contractors moved onto site on 17th October and are on target to remove all the asbestos from the basement, from 25th November.

From 25th November, work will begin on installing the permanent structural scaffolding in the basement which will replace heavily corroded temporary scaffolding which is holding up large sections of the floor plate of the building. This work will take six weeks to complete. Taking into account the Christmas break, we anticipate work finishing mid-January and the baths re-opening.

The fire exit door from pool 2, which caused the closure of the pool last Christmas is now fully repaired.

The £195,000 additional funding for the baths, is broken down as follows:

£65,000 to install the permanent scaffolding in the basement from 25th November onwards

£50,000 to prepare a Heritage Lottery bid for just over £5million for phase one of the works to restore these baths. Our objective for phase 1 is to stabilise the condition of the building, so that it is no longer deteriating. This would include remove the dry rot from the first floor and fixing any leaks in the roof.

£80,000 for ‘sticking plaster’ works to get the swimming baths through the next two years, in preparation for any restoration monies. We are arranging a meeting with English Heritage and our Conservation Officers in two weeks time to walk around the building and roof. What we want to do is plug up any roof leaks on pool 2, remove any vegetation growing out of brick work and install temporary plastic rainwater pipes where the original cast iron ones have vanished. Plus lead has been recently stolen from the roof, which will also need replacing.

Baths reopening put back AGAIN

We have received an update on the work currently being done at Moseley Road Baths from Cllr Martin Mullaney. His letter addressed to our group puts the new date for completing work to remove asbestos in the basement, environmentally clean the area and erect new scaffolding at the end of February 2012.

Work to remove the asbestos started on 17th October – we reported that asbestos had been found on 25th August.

There is, however, some possible good news as Birmingham City Council is planning to make a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a first phase of work to improve the building. This is likely to be structural work to maintain the building.

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths and local swimmers highlighted back at the start of the summer holidays on a ‘We Want to Swim’ demo that the extended closure of the building (it originally closed for ‘5 weeks’ in December 2010 and has to date been closed over 10 months) meant that local children were missing the opportunity to go swimming, or even learn to swim in the first place.  With neighbouring Sparkhill Baths permanently closed and other pools in the South of the city either busy or too far away, it’s really crucial that the building reopens as soon as is feasible.

We urge our supporters to keep in touch with local councillors and council officers to keep the pressure on – particularly with a local by-election coming up on 10th November and important local elections next May.

“We Want To Swim” Demo

As the six-week school summer holidays got underway a group of frustrated parents and children descended on Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath to complain about the ongoing closure of their favourite pool.

Summer holiday 'non-swim'

The Baths shut for essential repairs at Christmas for what Birmingham City Council initially claimed would be just six weeks, but more than six months later there’s still no sign of the building reopening, with the Council acknowledging that it will take another nine weeks for additional maintenance work to be carried out, leaving locals without a public pool, a situation exacerbated by the long-term closure of nearby Sparkhill Baths.

Around twenty Moseley Road Baths regulars attended Monday’s demonstration, organised by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths group. Jenny Wale, who came along with her daughters Millie (aged 9) and Sadie (11) said: “My children have nowhere to swim locally and because of the closure we have to drive several miles to our nearest pool. They’re missing out on something they love.”

Summer holiday 'non-swim'

David Pratt from Moseley Shoals swimming club was another demonstrator: “We are currently using Small Heath Leisure Centre to swim but we’d love to have our local baths back operating again.” The club have also tried using Cocks Moors Woods Leisure Centre at Alcester Lanes End but found it unsuitable for their requirements, being more of a leisure pool.

Friends’ Secretary Rachel Gillies remarked: “The school holidays have just begun, the weather’s been getting warmer and local children are desperate to come and swim at their local pool. It’s crucial that the remaining building and maintenance work starts as soon as possible so that this valuable and well-loved community facility can re-open and be enjoyed by all.”

Although work to replace the lintel above a door in the swimming pool (the initial reason for the pool’s closure) has now been completed, Birmingham City Council’s Urban Design team are insisting on the replacement of temporary scaffolding in the basement, while an asbestos survey of this area must also be carried out. Negotiations between contractors and the Council over the costs and details of this work have been ongoing for several weeks. On Monday, Councillor Martin Mullaney, Chairman of Leisure, Sport and Culture, stated that it would be late September at the earliest before Moseley Road Baths re-opened.

For more information or additional comment, please contact Jen Austin, Friends of Moseley Road Baths: 0121 440 5794/07521 734 022

Friends of Moseley Road Baths

July 25th 2011

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!

Response from Andrew Hardie

Just as an update to our request for candidates in the local elections to send responses, we did in fact receive a handwritten letter from Andrew Hardie, the Conservative Candidate, a day after the election.  As with some of the other responses, it was supportive of the facility, he has memories of swimming at the Baths, and he would like to ‘preserve, and indeed, widen its use after discussion with the Council, local GPs and schools.’  Unfortunately he fails to answer several of the questions we put to him.

As an aside – if candidates do want their views known, it would be preferable to receive replies in a format that we could easily pop online, and in plenty of time before the election.  Just sayin’.

Response from Cllr Ishtiaq

Just as an update to the previous post where we published letters from two of the five candidates standing in today’s election… I spoke with Cllr. Ishtiaq (the retiring Cllr, standing for re-election today) and Cllr Shokat Ali, (both Respect Party) this morning.  They inform me that a response was sent out to our letter within two days of them receiving it.  Their position is against Trust ownership and they both want swimming to continue on the site.

If and when we receive the response we’ll post it up.

Candidates respond to our letter

A few weeks ago we sent out a letter to all candidates for the Sparkbrook Ward in the forthcoming local elections, to see what their views are on the future of Moseley Road Baths.  We informed them that responses would be posted online.  We have, despite requesting a response by 30th April received just two out of a possible five replies – from the Labour Party and Green Party candidates.

Our letter:

As you are a prospective Councillor for the Sparkbrook Ward, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and our supporters are anxious to hear your position regarding one of the ward’s most important public buildings, Moseley Road Baths.  You will be aware that it stands in the middle of Balsall Heath and has served the community for over a century.  However, major investment and renovation is needed to maintain this Grade II* listed building, and to ensure that it continues to operate as a swimming facility.

We would like to know your answers to the following questions:

  • Are you committed to the future of swimming at Moseley Road Baths?
  • Are you committed to reopening the Gala Pool as a swimming pool?
  • Are you committed to maintaining the building and facilities under public ownership?
  • Are you committed to maintaining the building and facilities under public management?
  • Do you have any ideas as to how the building could be developed to meet the needs of the local community?

Response from Tony Kennedy – Labour Party Candidate

Thank you for your letter regarding Moseley Road Baths, I am happy to set out my thoughts, though please forgive me if my response does not follow the exact questions.

Firstly, I am totally committed to the complete renewal of all the existing and historic facilities of the baths. We have the last (and only) opportunity to retain, preserve and enhance this gem of a building and facility of local and national importance. I understand and value the utility of the Baths for local people, the many other users, and the passionate attachment to such a unique and beautiful building.

For many years I swam there at lunchtime and regularly took my (now grown) daughters for a ‘real’ swim; (amongst many other experiences there, I enjoyed a splendid underwater performance by the Birmingham Electronic Arts and Sound (BEAST) group). I understand and value the unique qualities of the Baths as a local facility, the last example of a public bathing facility, a historic and critically, a working building in a unique and important part of Birmingham.

Secondly, I am an experienced politician with good insights into political and financial processes and priorities; it is absolutely clear that the Baths are just one of many currently competing priorities in Birmingham and under the present CON/LIBDEM Coalition control will receive minimal ‘political maintenance’ support with the imminent prospect of closure when budget cuts dig deeper.

Thirdly, the only prospect of saving, preserving and enhancing the Baths is as a flagship facility as a flagship of a major ‘Moseley Road’ regeneration programme, creating a vibrant local centre with major external funding and linking to the City Centre Regeneration Zone and the A342 ‘string of pearls’ from Digbeth to Moseley road and Moseley/Kings Heath – this would also mean creating a major attraction of the local centre and the other presently dilapidated listed and significant buildings: Library, School of Arts, Dance Centre, Arts & Crafts building (The Make-It centre), Tram-shed etc.

I have led and won bids for major regeneration resources (Sparkbrook/Sparkhill SRB & URBAN £60 million, Aston Pride £54 million) and chaired the Sparkbrook & Sparkhill Regeneration Board and the East Birmingham & North Solihull Regeneration Board.

In short, we need a serious, strategic framework to justify major investment in the Baths and to demonstrate their role in the strategic development of the area and the city. We need a strategy which is ambitious, realistic, achievable, shared and demonstrably of value to a vibrant city.

Lastly, we need to change the nature of the debate and develop a wider vision for a regenerated locality with historic buildings, sustainable communities and a local centre integrated with nearby buildings and services: health, police, retail shops, library, community, faith and leisure facilities.

I propose creating a local centre steering group with the Friends of Moseley Road Baths at its heart. Every opportunity should be pursued (lottery etc.) for the Baths; however, major development will only be possible by demonstrating the catalytic effect of the development for the wider area.

In 2003/4 I chaired the ‘Local Centres’ regeneration strategy group under the then Labour-controlled council, Moseley Road was the top priority for a series of renewed local centres across the city- this was binned by the CONDEM coalition council when they took control, as was every other Labour Party policy.

Labour will win control of the Council in 2012, whilst the sitting Leader will become Interim Mayor in November this year with executive powers until the Mayoral election in 2013, so HE will have authority to make and set the budget (it would require 2/3rds of the full city council to overturn this. The CONDEMs have so miss-managed Birmingham City Council’s budget that currently 66% of the total Birmingham Council Tax revenue goes to service the debt accumulated on their pet projects (Harborne Baths, Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, ‘Central’ Library, etc.)

It does seem to me probable that the national coalition will open the purse-strings in a couple of years as and when the national economy picks up (they will sell the Government shares in the banks, for example, at a profit.) There are also opportunities to bid for lottery, European and other funds.

Given these circumstances, the Mayor needs to be convinced of the case for supporting a thriving local centre at Moseley Road and I am happy to help build and make this case and promote an ambitious scheme.

So, this is the context for the Baths. We need a ‘reality-check’ to take account of financial and political realities, build a compelling case for the future, and campaign hard to win the resources to achieve the shared vision. This campaign will not be won overnight and will take considerable communal effort. I pledge to work to these ends.

As for your questions, I support whatever the consensus of the community decides.

Best wishes,

Tony Kennedy

Labour Party Candidate

Sparkbrook Ward Election, 2011

Response from Charles Alldrick – Green Party Candidate (typed from handwritten letter)

Thank you for your letter on 20th Aprill[sic] 2011.  My answers are the following.

  • I am committed to the fact all local children should be abel[sic] to swimming free of charge at Mosely[sic] Road Bath, which should remain open.
  • The Gala Pool should reopen to benefit the public.
  • Mosley[sic] Road Bath should owned and maintained by the city, however Friends of Mosely[sic] Road Bath should have controll[sic] over the runing[sic] for the interest of the public.
  • Undrer[sic] Public Health Mosely[sic] Road Bath the only public bath-wash left in Birmingham, hence Friends of Mosley[sic] Road Bath should be more recognised by the local authority and residence[sic].

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Alldrick

Demonstrate this Saturday!

Birmingham City Council has been spearheading efforts by local authorities to slash local budgets and open services up to the private sector.  A huge chunk of this will affect frontline services.

At the Friends of Moseley Road Baths we’re concerned that public swimming facilities across Birmingham will be transferred into the private sector and effectively run by Trusts.  We believe that this jeopardises the long-term future of the building as a swimming facility and may affect accessibility.

As such we will be joining with local residents, council workers, community groups and trade unions on Saturday to demonstrate against the cuts.  Everyone will be gathering from noon in St Philips Square.  We’ll be there with a banner, so please do come and join us!

There is more information on the Birmingham Against the Cuts website, along with a whole host of reasons why you should get involved.

Stop the Cuts demo