Haggerston Baths: ‘Bitter disappointment’ as town hall reveals building will NOT reopen as a pool

Haggerston Baths

Haggerston Baths - Credit: Archant

Hopes of re-opening a swimming pool at Haggerston Baths have been crushed.

Haggerston Baths

Haggerston Baths - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council has revealed three shortlisted proposals which will all involve business and arts space of some sort and a café – but no pool.

Last May the council put the barrel-vaulted pool hall in Whiston Road, Haggerston on the market for a 250-year lease, and received 29 proposals from developers.

The council is currently forking out around £100,000 a year on basic building maintenance and security measures, and would need to find more than £25m to restore the bathhouse - which was named one of the nation’s 10 most threatened Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales by the Victorian Society two years ago.

Of the 10 proposals long-listed – which included a brewery, a theatre, a hotel, a nightclub - just one feasible bid included retaining the pool, which shut 16 years ago.

Haggerston Baths

Haggerston Baths - Credit: Archant

“Keen to pursue this opportunity”, the council has spent the “best part of 2016 in negotiations with the developer”.

But eventually it became clear that “the gulf between the reassurances they required over whether the development would be implemented as proposed and those that the developer was prepared to offer was too great”, the council announced today.

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Proposals put forward from the three short-listed developers – London and Regional Properties, Castle Forge and Seaforth Land – will be unveiled in the New Year.

Campaigners from Save Haggerston Pool are “bitterly disappointed”, and said the decision would be “deeply unpopular” with residents and their supporters.

In a statement on their behalf, spokesman Mike Coysh, said: “We would wish to draw attention to a 16-year history of failure on the part of the council to prioritise the reopening of the pool, and to work with the community to do so, particularly when capacity and funds were available to progress the project through the community route.

“This will represent a community asset lost forever at a time when the local population is on the increase, the NHS is under increasing threat, and other pools in the south of the borough are threatened.”

London and Regional Properties has promised to deliver 35,000 square feet of employment space for creative and technology businesses along with a multi-function space incorporating an art gallery, screening room and function room and a private members’ club.

Castle Forge meanwhile has plans for affordable workspace, commercial space, an art gallery and exhibition space and community rooms. And Seaforth Land’s proposals include retail and office space, live and work space, and an arts venue.

The successful applicant will have to cover the multi-million pound cost of bringing the building back into use. They will also have to carry out further surveys to determine the full extent of engineering and restoration required.

Historic England and the Council’s Conservation Officers will have to give consent to any proposals and will seek to ensure that the historic fabric of the building, particularly of the pool hall, is maintained.

Feedback on the three plans will be invited through a public consultation and a final decision should be made in the spring.

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “This is the start of a long process, and we will work with the winning developer to make sure the final proposals bring this much loved building back into use.”

Designed by architect AWS Cross, the baths opened in 1904 and contained a 60-stall wash house.