Bath & North East Somerset Council
Cllr Malcolm Hanney, Cabinet Member for Resources
On or after 1st December 2007
Former Cleveland Baths, Hampton Row, Bath
EXECUTIVE FORWARD PLAN REFERENCE:
AN OPEN PUBLIC ITEM
List of attachments to this report:
1 THE ISSUE
1.1 The report details the options for the Former Cleveland Baths and potential outcomes in light of the Quirk Review.
The Cabinet member is asked to:
2.1 Note the options set out within paragraph 4 of the report.
2.2 Decide which option to instruct Officers to pursue.
3 FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
3.1 The sale of the Former Cleveland Baths could provide a capital sum to the Council.
3.2 Under a leasehold disposal the level of rent payable would be subject to the final business plan.
3.3 There is no funding set aside by the Council to bring forward proposals that require revenue or capital funding in respect of this building.
3.4 Since the Baths became void in June 2004 @ £28,000 has been incurred by the Council in maintenance, insurance, management and other costs. The Trust has carried out occasional weeding at the Baths using volunteers.
4 THE REPORT
4.1 History and Current Position
4.2 The Baths were built in 1815 as a private venture which allowed the public to swim at the Baths. The main buildings date from that period. The Baths closed in 1898/9 and were then taken over by the Bath Corporation in 1900 and reopened in 1901. The Baths were altered in the Edwardian period and other alterations took place in the 1960's and 1980's. The Baths in their current form are early 20th Century but they follow the form of the older Baths. The Baths were operated by the Council as an open air swimming pool until 1978; the property was then in occasional use up until it closed in 1984. They were then used as a trout farm from July 1984 until 1991 and then the tenant remained in occupation until June 2004. After this date the property has been void.
4.3 The Baths are the only public Georgian swimming baths in the country and are the oldest open air public swimming baths in Britain. They are grade II* listed.
4.4 When the Baths became void in June 2004 they were marketed for a freehold disposal. The founding members of the Cleveland Pools Trust came forward during this time expressing interest in the property asking for a delay in the disposal. The property was withdrawn from the market in August 2004 as the Trust had asked for time to examine the potential to "save" the building and/or find a use that allowed an element of public access. The Trust has 125 subscribers and 1,500 signed up supporters. The Council had received offers for the freehold disposal of the property.
4.5 In November 2004 Interest in the Baths was received from ECO H2O (Watsu/complementary therapy) and Trevor Osborne. ECO H2O, Trevor Osborne and the founding members of the Trust proceeded to work together on a business case. An archaeological assessment was carried out on the Baths, various meetings were held, and proposals were made culminating in the submission of a business case from the Trust alone in February 2007. Clarification of certain elements within the business plan was requested but the Trust indicated it was unable to provide the information as it would have involved it in incurring further expenditure. In August 2007 further questions on the business plan were raised and some of the information has been provided by the Trust. The Trust has advised that, some of the information can only be provided once the Trust has further funding available.
4.6 The Trust has acknowledged that to date the business plan is not comprehensive and the Trust wish to be granted a vehicle which will enable it to seek funding for a comprehensive business plan. Some of the key findings from the Trust's business plan to date are:
4.7 The key concerns which have yet to be addressed by the Trust are:
4.9 Option 1- grant the Trust an option agreement for a period of up to say 2 years to lease the Baths for a term to be agreed. The agreement for lease would be in such a form so as to enable the Trust to seek funding for and to commission a full business case to test the viability of bringing forward their proposals. English Heritage will be approached to obtain their view of the Baths along with the Planning Department.
The recently published Quirk Review of Community Management and Ownership of Public Assets encourages Councils to gain a wider public involvement in buildings such as this one. It is not prescriptive in its suggestions for enabling such public involvement, however. It is clear from the first round of Government funding pursuant to this agenda, being managed by the Big Lottery Fund, that leases of in excess of twenty years are seen as one model of facilitating the involvement. There is no requirement on the Council to release the Former Cleveland Baths at less than market value.
4.10 Option 2 - invite proposals for use of the Baths from the open market including the possible sale of the freehold for appropriate use. The Trust would be invited to make a bid if it should so wish. Following the agreed principles for disposals in pursuance of the Quirk Review, if a disposal was considered, receipts should be used to provide a further improved community provision in other areas of the Council.
5 RISK MANAGEMENT
5.1 The report author and Cabinet member have fully reviewed the risk assessment related to the issue and recommendations, in compliance with the Council's decision making risk management guidance.
6.1 The Baths are of significant historical interest and the Trust has invested considerable time in pursuing their proposal to re-open the Baths. An agreement to lease would allow the Trust to have sufficient security of tenure to enable it to pursue funding for its proposal.
6.2 The Quirk Report provides a new basis for the consideration of community management of public assets. The Council's approach to Quirk is based on a presumption of gaining a benefit either in terms of adding to the provision of services within the authority, in which case a supporting Service will back the bid of an organisation for support OR on obtaining best consideration for the property for re-investment in provision of community services generally. The Council's approach to this property may be seen as setting precedent.
6.3 Selling the Freehold of the property would limit any financial exposure by the Council and would generate a capital receipt.
7 OTHER OPTIONS CONSIDERED
7.1 All options are considered within the body of the report.
8.1 The following were consulted: Ward Councillors (Cllr Darracot & Cllr Dixon), Section 151 Finance Officer (Paul Fox,) Chief Executive (John Everitt), Monitoring Officer (Vernon Hitchman) & Director of Resources (Richard Szadziewski), Cllr Whelan (approached at the request of Overview & Scrutiny panel).
8.2 The report was circulated to the consultees and their comments were given/have been incorporated into the report.
9 ISSUES TO CONSIDER IN REACHING THE DECISION
10 ADVICE SOUGHT
The Council's Monitoring Officer (Vernon Hitchman) and Section 151 Officer (Paul Fox) have had the opportunity to input to this report and have cleared it for publication.
10.1 A draft of this report has been provided to the consultees and their comments where appropriate have been incorporated into the report.
Jo Long, Senior Estate Surveyor 01225 477661
Making Assets Work - The Quirk Review
Please contact the report author if you need to access this report in an alternative format