Further supplementary memorandum submitted
by Ms Gill Wright representing the Manchester Victoria Baths Trust
THE SPORT OF SWIMMING
I am a trustee of Manchester Victoria Baths
Trust, a charity set up in 1993 when the Victoria Baths was closed
for public use. The Trust aims to re-open at least one of the
swimming pools at Victoria Baths and the Turkish Baths suite for
public use. The Trust is working on plans to renovate the Victoria
Baths as a Healthy Living Centre. Since 1998 I have worked as
full-time voluntary project worker for the Victoria Baths. I am
also a qualified swimming teacher. I teach at a small swimming
club in Rusholme which teaches children aged five to 12 (beginners
to preliminary lane coaching). I am a single parent of an eight
year old girla keen swimmer and diver.
The Victoria Baths is one and a half miles south
of Manchester city centre. It was built in 1903-06 as a considerable
investment by Manchester Corporation. It provided three swimming
pools, 64 wash baths, a Turkish Baths suite, club rooms and a
substantial four bedroomed Superintendent's flat. The building
is very ornate with a wealth of stained glass, decorative tiling,
mosaic floors and ornamental ironwork. It was listed grade II
in 1983 and up-graded to grade II* in 1994.
In 1993 Manchester City Council felt unable
to justify the expense of running the Victoria Baths, by this
time providing one swimming pool, dry sports facilities, Turkish
Baths and an Aerotone Therapeutic Bath (Jacuzzi). Despite vigorous
local opposition Victoria Baths was closed. The Victoria Baths
Trust was set up by local residents with a view to raising capital
to renovate the building and re-open swimming and Turkish Bath
facilities to the public. Manchester City Council made it very
clear that they could not provide funding for this project, but
would support a scheme which enabled the building to be operated
As a result of the closure of Victoria Baths,
the opportunity to swim has been lost to many people. Traditional
pools suit the needs of the young, older and disabled swimmers
in particular. Transport is a big factor and many people will
not swim if they cannot walk to a local pool.
The Trust is now working on plans to renovate
the Victoria Baths as a Healthy Living Centre providing a range
of leisure, health and arts facilities. The Centre will address
many aspects of local and central government policy:
addressing health inequalities and
encouraging participation in sport;
achieving economic regeneration;
increasing access to and interpretation
of a significant listed building.
Despite meeting many targets of government policy
and potentially providing very great public benefit, we face an
enormous task and have yet to solve the issue of how to re-open
the swimming pool at Victoria Baths.
When it closed in 1993, it was estimated by
the city council that £500,000 was needed to update the facilities
at Victoria Baths. A feasibility study commissioned by the Trust
estimated full renovation costs in 1994 to be £3.8 million.
In 1999 the estimated cost of restoring and converting the entire
building as a healthy living centre was £9.1 million. These
are net costs and do not include the very heavy cost to the project
of VAT which is payable in full for repairs to listed buildings.
The VAT bill for the renovation of Victoria Baths is £1.83
million. This in itself is a massive sum for the project to raise.
We have to raise this amount, from public sources, in order to
pay VAT back to the Exchequer. Whilst relief has recently been
announced for listed churches, there is still an urgent need to
make relief available to public projects on listed buildings such
as Victoria Baths.
Very few swimming pools run without subsidy.
Whilst forecasts commissioned by the Trust indicated that our
leisure facilities might operate at break-even, independent scrutiny
of these forecasts predicted a potential revenue deficit of £50,000-£75,000
per annum. There are numerous potential sources of capital funding
for the restoration of Victoria Baths, but we have yet to identify
any potential sources of revenue support. We are now pursuing
a phase 1 Healthy Living Centre project at Victoria Baths which
includes restoration of the Turkish Baths, but not the swimming
pool. Whist still providing wide social benefits (including a
gym/fitness suite, health and arts facilities) this does nothing
to meet the demand for local swimming facilities in Longsight,
Rusholme and Ardwick.
We are at the first phase of capital applications
for Victoria Baths in a complex fund-raising plan. Not only does
each funder require different information, the procedures and
time-scales vary considerably and sometimes clash. We would welcome
a requirement on all public funding bodies to co-operate with
each other, hold joint meetings and review their procedures to
enable multiple funding bids to run smoothly.
The Manchester Splash Swimming Club used Victoria
Baths until its closure. The Club now meets at Manchester Grammar
School. We have a long waiting list of children who want to learn
to swim. Whilst other provision exists in Manchester, parents
indicate that they want local provision at convenient times at
a reasonable price. Our club easily breaks even, yet still manages
to charge a fraction of the price of the local authority and private
swimming lessons, due to the voluntary input form the club committee.
Lack of water space is the biggest factor preventing our club
from expanding its provision.
26 November 2001