Reopening setback

We are currently anxiously awaiting the reopening of the pool since it was closed for work in December 2010. Whilst we were initially of the understanding that work would start on the lintel above the Pool 2 Fire Exit immediately, it was some months before surveys were completed, business plans produced, money secured and a contractor appointed.

Yesterday we learnt of a further setback to the reopening, which was scheduled to take place on 23rd May. Cllr Mullaney has contacted us with the following e-mail:

Readers will be aware that Pool 2 of Moseley Road baths has been closed since Christmas so that the lintel above the fire exit door in this pool can be repaired.

See previous posting at

We were hoping that the work would be completed on or around 23rd May. Unfortunately, we are now looking at, at best, 13th June. Although this date may be pushed back due to additional problems in the basement of the baths.

At time of writing, the stainless steel lintel for the fire exit door in Pool 2 is being manufactured in Switzerland. We hope to have it at Moseley Road baths in 2 weeks time. Installing and removing the steel frame holding up the load bearing wall above the fire exit, will take a further three weeks – hence the 13th June date.

In addition, the Council’s structural engineers have raised concerns about the state of decade old acrow props underneath the former second class mens slipper baths. These acrow props hold the floor up, which in turn holds up the roof at this section of the building.

The acrow props are heavily rusted and need replacing immediately.

Our Structural engineers will only allow any replacement temporary acrow props to remain in situ for two months and want a permanent structure put in place. Estimated costed is £100,000.

The council’s Urban Design team are in the process of costing a temporary and permanent solution. They hope to have this information to me by the end of this week.

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

Work commences at Baths

Re-opening of Moseley Road Baths planned for late May

Following an extended period of closure caused by structural problems with a wall in Pool 2, repair work was due to commence at Moseley Road Baths on March 21st, with a hoped for re-opening date of no later than May 23rd. The Baths failed to re-open after the Christmas and New Year break ahead of work commencing to repair the lintel support to the rear door of Pool 2. However, many users felt the closure to be premature, occurring as it did some weeks before the finance needed to carry out the repairs was in place.

With Sparkhill Pool closed since June 2008, swimmers have been forced to use alternative facilities, such as the leisure pools at Cocks Moors Woods and Fox Hollies, or the narrower and shorter pool at Tiverton Road in Selly Oak. To many Moseley Road Baths regulars, such facilities have proved inappropriate to their specific swimming needs. The closure has been particularly problematic for local schools, with many unable to afford the transport costs involved in travelling to pools further afield and with little or no spare capacity on the timetable for schools at these venues anyway.

The door that needs a new lintel today serves as a fire exit, having been added during World War II when Moseley Road Baths was used as a first aid centre.

Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, has kept residents and the Friends of Moseley Road Baths informed during the last few months of progress in arranging the repairs and getting the funds released by the Council Finance Department. However, a start date for the repairs was only confirmed in early March.

According to Councillor Mullaney: “The objective of the works is to replace the lintel on the fire exit of Pool 2, which will allow the pool to re-open to the public. The work will take between 6-9 weeks, depending on the complexity of the issues discovered when the current rotten lintel is removed. So at worst, the pool will re-open to public around 23rd May.”

The initial work involves constructing a steel frame to support the gable wall after the present lintel is removed. Speaking of the building’s long- term future, Councillor Mullaney stated that meetings have recently taken place involving senior council officers and English Heritage officials to investigate ways in which restoration of other areas of the baths building could be undertaken as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund bid.

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

Baths closed for maintenance

Moseley Road Baths is closed until further notice due to essential maintenance work on the end of Pool 2 (the pool currently in operation). Funding has been found by Birmingham City Council to do structural work on the far wall around the Fire Exit. It is our understanding that other bits of maintenance and cleaning will be done during the closure and that the closure will last at least five weeks.

Friends of Moseley Road Baths welcome the maintenance work, but are cautious about what this means for the future of the building. We will be pressing the Council for more details on the work and trying to ascertain when the building will reopen to the public for swimming.

If you have further details then please share them with us via e-mail or using the comments box below.