Hackney Council has chosen a preferred bidder to refurbish and redevelop the Haggerston Baths building.
The agreement to lease will allow Castleforge Partners to apply for listed building consent and planning permission for a scheme to incorporate space for businesses, shops and a café, as well as community uses such as a clinic, health centre, day care centre or public hall.
Castleforge was selected after a competitive bidding process and public consultation. 54% of respondents said they supported the Castleforge proposal, compared to just 33% who supported the other shortlisted scheme.
The story so far
Haggerston Baths opened in 1904 and closed in 2000. It is included in the Victorian Society's list of the most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales and costs the Council about £100,000 every year to cover maintenance and security.
The aim of this project is to identify a long-term and self-sustaining future for the building and preserve public access to this unique and much loved Hackney asset.
The cost of restoring the building and bringing it into public use is estimated to be in excess of £20 million. The Council cannot afford to pay this cost up front, but does not want the building to fall out of public ownership. So in 2015 we asked developers to come forward with expressions of interest in restoring the building and bringing it back into public use. The winning developer will have to cover the cost of the work and then pay the Council rent for an annual lease. This means the Council gets a regular source of income without outlaying millions of pounds up front.
Of those parties who expressed an interest ten developers went on to make formal proposals. Of these, three were shortlisted based on an earlier consultation where residents were asked what facilities and uses they would like to see on the site. One developer pulled out, leaving two proposals.
What happens next?
The chosen developer is likely to carry out further surveys so that they can determine the full extent of engineering and restoration required, and inform their detailed design, before entering into a contract that commits them to spending many millions of pounds. Until they have entered into that contract this whole process is subject to significant risks and may yet fail.
Once the contract has been awarded and the design finalised, the developer will submit a planning application. Historic England and the Council's Conservation Officers will have to give consent to any proposals and will seek to ensure that the historic fabric of the building, and particularly the pool hall, is maintained.
Why did none of the proposals include a swimming pool?
The Council knows that local residents were keen to restore the swimming pool, so we 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.
The developer initially proposed that the pool would be made available Monday to Friday 7am-4pm for public swimming for a fee. However, the developer drew back from this firm commitment, meaning that there would be no way of enforcing public swimming, and there could be no certainty that a pool of any description would have been restored to the Baths.
The Council has always been clear that we would not be selling the freehold to the pool, and that any potential developer would not receive a lease until they had built what they proposed they were going to build. Through the negotiations with the developer that wanted to build a pool it became clear that they wanted a freehold or a leasehold with no controls. Handing over a historic building to a developer with no control other than the Council's statutory role as local planning authority would have been unacceptable.
Hackney Council appreciates that there will be a great deal of disappointment that there is no pool in these proposals, but it remains committed to finding a future for the Baths that has a realistic chance of success and that will be sustainable over the long term.