In April 09 the council approved a plan to demolish 95% of the current building and replace it with a new building against the wishes of the majority consulted. They put money in place to keep the current centre open until March 2011. A few days before Christmas we learned that, without public announcement or any further consultation, the council were going to close the centre on April 1st 2010, before any new plans for development had been submitted for a planning permission, a process which allows members of the public to comment on new designs and which involves seeking permission for the government to demolish what is already there.
2) What has been the role of the Save Victoria Baths campaign in all this?
Exposing the council's double dealings, firstly by making people aware that if the centre shuts and no plans are in place, there is nothing to stop the council simply allowing the building to become derelict; secondly by forcing the council to come clean about its actions (they haven't, preferring to hide behind fluffy pr statements); and thirdly by reminding people that the majority voted for modernising what is already there, not to knock it down.
3) What has been the reaction to this new development?
The council have as usual tried to say that they represent the views of the majority who want the centre to close and be demolished to make way for the new building, which will be smaller, offer fewer facilities and lose all of the things that the community enjoy about the current facility such as the Turkish baths, the sports hall and the big pool. There are simply no facts to support the council's view. There are a great many people who feel both cheated and belittled by the council's conduct.
4) The council is apparently intending to replace Victoria Baths which, as the campaign website puts it, "offers fewer facilities, will cost more to run and end up being private." Do you have any opinions on why this is being pushed for?
It is to release land for development. The footprint of the current building is large and sprawling and the council thinks that it doesn't lend itself easily to regeneration. With a smaller more 'blocked' site far more land (especially the prime bits on Bath St) becomes available. However this is an intellectually lazy view of regeneration and completely disregards the local communities wishes for the facilities it pays for with Its council tax.
5) What's your relationship with the council been like?
We are struggling to find common ground at the moment.
6) Do you have any relationship with other local campaigns against council cuts (Stonebridge, Wilford and Beechdale libraries etc.)?
We have close links to Stonebridge.
7) Does the campaign have any plans beyond the 6th February demo?
Yes – we are presenting a petition of all signatories against the closure at the next council meeting on Feb 8th.
8) What can readers do to support the campaign?
Sign the petition on our website www.savevictoriabaths.org.uk and turn up to the march on sat with goggles!