Birmingham City Council have today approved a planning application to demolish and rebuild the pool and leisure centre facility in Northfield.
After discussing concerns surrounding the location decision, loss of the historic facade, loss of sauna and more, the planning committee voted 8 to 1 to approve the plans (3 abstentions).
The facility, due to open in spring 2018, will include a 6 lane 25m pool, a learner pool, changing facilities, a fitness suite, a dance studio and a community room.
As part of the plans, some current features will be lost: there will be no steam or sauna facilities, (despite a petition put forward by user Tristan Harris) and no ICE gym – one of three gyms equipped for young people 8-16 across Birmingham. The main pool will be 25m long, compared to the current 30m pool.
A long and heated debate and consultation on the location of a new build centre followed Birmingham City Council’s decision to build a new facility back in 2014. Options included the current site, the Longbridge redevelopment and Prices Square in the centre of Northfield.
A decision was made in March last year that the new build would go ahead on the current site.
Alternative facilities during rebuild
The running of the site, along with 7 others, has now been taken over by the Serco managed Birmingham Community Leisure Trust and was due to remain open until demolition in September. However, a recent problem with cryptosporidium meant that the centre closed early, in June.
Tiverton Pool in Selly Oak, earmarked for closure, will be kept open as an alternative facility while the Northfield new build takes place.
Historic landmark lost
The history of Northfield baths:
- Northfield baths opened on 8th May 1937 and were the first in Birmingham to be built solely for the purpose of recreation.
- The building was designed by Henry Simister for the Birmingham Baths Committee. There were two pools, as there are now, with a large cafe overlooking.
- The fitness suite was added in the 1980s.
- The refurbishment in 2003 was the last major spend on the building.
- Situated opposite the Black Horse on Bristol Road South, the building is considered a local landmark.
Although the landmark facade of the building is to be lost, proposed plans include retaining some of the key features of the building – such as the weather vane – in the landscaping around the new centre.
When plans were released in March, Northfield MP Richard Burden said: “I am disappointed that it looks like the facade of the current building is not being retained. It is an important local landmark and that will be lost even if the new pool preserves a few features from the old one. It looks like the loss of the facade is down to shortage of space on the existing pool site. This was one of the reasons I supported building a new leisure centre somewhere else – like Northfield’s Price’s Square just up the road. That option wasn’t to be, though, and we need to make what has been agreed work as well as possible. The key thing is that Northfield needs a quality new pool and leisure centre, and it is getting one.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “The £8million investment into rebuilding the Northfield Leisure facility is expected to support wider regeneration in the area, as well as greatly enhance the health and fitness provision for local residents by making sporting activity and swimming more accessible to a greater number of people wanting to enjoy an active lifestyle.
“The community area will offer a great space for hosting community functions and events in a safe, secure and modern environment.”
Northfield MP Richard Burden said: “The Council promised to build a new pool and leisure centre in Northfield and these plans show they are as good as their word.
“So I want to congratulate the council on its investment – particularly when the city is suffering such big cuts from the Government.”