Express & Star

Update on historic former baths site redevelopment to be presented to council bosses

An update on plans to transform Wolverhampton’s derelict former Heath Town Baths and Library into a banqueting hall, day nursery and conference centre is to be presented to city council bosses next week.

The neglected exterior of Heath Town swimming baths. Photo: Avalon Heritage

The grade II building has lain empty and unused since 2003 and is now dilapidated, having been repeatedly hit by acts of vandalism. Arsonists have also targeted the  premises. City regeneration boss Richard Lawrence will next week give a presentation to council bosses on the redevelopment plans for the historic structure following planning approval having also been granted.

Over the years a number of planned projects – including a bid by Wolverhampton Olympic gold medal-winning former javelin thrower Tessa Sanderson to turn the building into a sports centre in 2014 – have failed to get off the ground.

Developers Gaddu Associates, which has carried out a full consultation on the plan, is proposing to fully refurbish the Tudor Road premises for a mix of community uses. It has been recognised as a building of community value in the Heathfield Park Neighbourhood Plan.

In a report to the council’s economy and growth scrutiny panel, Mr Lawrence said: “The total projected cost for this project is between £4-£5 million. Gaddu Associates have worked closely with officers from National Lottery on the grant application. Heritage Lottery officers have spent a day on site with both Gaddu Associates and members of the Heathfield Park Community Action Network.

“National Heritage Lottery have indicated that they believe the restoration of Heath Town Baths is a viable scheme and have supported Gaddu through the expression of interest stage. The final decision relies on Gaddu gaining both a planning consent – which they have achieved – and a legal interest in the land, to be achieved through the signing of the lease.

“National Heritage Lottery require match funding of up to 20 per cent of the total project cost. Expenditure already incurred by Gaddu, for example in the preparation of the planning application, cannot be used as match funding.”

Development Director Pavan Gaddu said: “We are delighted to have reached this important stage in the building’s history after working with Heathfield Park Community Action Network to understand the needs of the local people.

“This crystallises our vision for the site and is another step towards ensuring the building will be brought back to its former place at the heart of the Heath Town community. Our proposals involve the restoration of the whole building and will respect the historic and architectural importance and innovation which was shown at the time of its construction.”

Council leader Stephen Simkins (Lab. Bilston South), added: “The much-loved Heath Town Baths and Library remain a priority for the council and in particular the ward councillors. The council remains fully committed to seeing this historic building put back into beneficial use for the local community and wider city.”

When it first opened in 1932, the property housed two swimming pools, a wash house and a library. It has been on the statutory list of buildings of architectural and historic importance since 2000.

A statement from JBVJ Architects, submitted along with the original planning application, said: “Heath Town Baths and Library has significant value to the local community as it was one of the first buildings in the region to offer community bathing, washing facilities and a laundry washhouse.

“The building is the only surviving early example of the local authority’s efforts to bring several essential community services together in one central building, now called a ‘community hub’.

“It is a prominent heritage landmark and is located adjacent to the Holy Trinity Church, cemetery and Lychgate, Alms Houses and War Memorial in Heath Town Park. The  building is of national importance and has similarities with Royal Horticultural Hall designs.”

A license agreement has been put in place with with Gaddu Associates to take occupation of the former library and a planning and listed building application has been validated with the full lease extending to 125 years.

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