The Council’s executive committee are expected to agree £1m that will secure the future of the historic Withington Baths at a meeting next week (Weds 17 Nov).
The loan will help the operating trust to meet the cost of essential repair work after rapidly rising construction costs left them significantly short.
The Baths is managed by the Love Withington Baths Charitable Trust, which took over the leisure centre following a successful campaign to save the building in 2015.
The Baths had been earmarked for closure – to be replaced by the new Hough End Leisure Centre – but the local group fought for its survival as a community asset – safeguarding 25 jobs and retaining the centre for 2,000 members, including 700 children who visit weekly for swimming sessions.
The Baths also provides shared workspace used by around 20 local self-employed sole traders.
The Trust have successfully operated the leisure centre since the takeover, meeting running costs and building a reserve of funds.
Already the Trust have undertaken several refurbishment projects, including the refurbishment of two fitness studios, developed the shared workspace, and brought the sauna back into use - while maintaining and restoring original details of the property.
However, now considerable repair is required to the building’s structure, including repairs to the pool and boiler system - and restoration of the heritage roof.
Although the Trust managed to secure a successful Heritage Lottery funding bid (£900k) and an additional £230k from the Baths’ own reserves – which was a sum originally expected to cover the costs of the project, and along with a failed Levelling Up Fund bid - rapidly increasing construction costs in the current economic climate has found the Trust £1m short and unable to proceed without support.
In consideration of the Trust’s successful management of the building to date, the Council’s executive will be asked to approve the long-term loan (funded from the Council through prudential borrowing) to paid back over 25-years.
Cllr Bev Craig, Leader Elect of Manchester City Council, said:
‘’The Trust have proven themselves to be a remarkably successful group who have not only saved and retained use of a beautiful heritage building in Withington, but have maintained access to swimming and leisure facilities for the local community. This loan will secure the future of this building for the decades to come, providing a sustainable future for the Baths and supporting the continued success of Withington as a better place to live and work.”
Paul Smith, Managing Director, Love Withington Baths, said:
“Withington is the last working Edwardian pool in Manchester from the extensive network which were built across the city as part of a public health movement in the early part of the 20th century. This financial support, partly secured from The National Heritage Lottery Fund and further funding by the Council, means that we can complete the full works which are required to restore the Baths to its original condition and to ensure that it continues to provide high quality health and fitness services for local people for years and years to come.”