Sixteen years after Haggerston Baths were closed down, Hackney council have short-listed three private development bids to bring the historic building back to use, although none include restoring the swimming pool.
The news comes as a blow to campaigners who have been fighting to revive the Victorian-era Grade II listed building. The three shortlisted schemes include the building of new workspaces, retail and commercial space, a cafe and exhibition areas.
Mike Coysh who jointly runs the Save Haggerston Pool campaign with Liz Hughes, told ELL they were “bitterly disappointed” and “still reeling” from the news.
The campaigners had fought a long battle for the site to be re-opened as a swimming pool.
Coysh said campaigners had tried to cooperate with the council, and had initially hoped the pool would be handed over to the community to manage. However, in June 2015, the council decided to open bids to private developers.
The Council received 29 expressions of interest from developers, of which ten submissions were long-listed. However, negotiations broke down between the council and one of the key bidders, whose proposal included a pool.
Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville said: “The aim of this project was to identify a long-term and self-sustaining future for the building. Although we recognised the scale of the likely investment required to achieve this, we encouraged bidders to devise schemes that could also preserve some public access to this unique and much loved Hackney asset.”
“The council has spent the best part of a year negotiating with a developer whose proposals included a pool. Unfortunately we could not get the reassurances we needed that the scheme proposed would actually be delivered.”
Campaigners believe more could have been done to save the pool. Although Coysh said that the campaign “were realistic about local authority finances”, he alluded to the successful re-opening of a number of other historic pools in London as examples that could have been followed in Hackney.
In a statement on its site, a spokesperson from the Save Haggerston Pool campaign 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.”
In October 2015, more than 150 local residents and supporters of the Save Haggerston Pool campaign attended a meeting on the building’s future. In addition, over 90 pc of the 384 people who responded to a public questionnaire on the site, wanted a swimming pool.
A final decision on the future of the historic building will be made in the spring of 2017. The successful bidder will be expected to meet the multi-million pound cost of re-developing the building, for which the council pays £100,000 a year.
Local residents expressed their disappointment on social media:
— Ronke Lawal (@ronkelawal) December 5, 2016
I swam in #Haggerston pool from 1994 – 2000 and my big boy learned to swim there..A small investment at the time could have kept it open.
— Annie Blackmore (@annie_blackmore) December 5, 2016
Save Haggerston Pool The Progress. Shock news. LBH break their promise! Haggerston Pool not included in proposals https://t.co/Nz9wrW1zWt
— ShoreditchParkUsers (@shoreditchpark) December 6, 2016
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