‘We’re really grateful to the council for the loan’: £1m loan to help preserve Withington baths

  • £1m council loan agreed for Withington baths
  • Campaigners say cash will allow crucial maintenance in restoring Edwardian building
  • One user says she 'loves seeing these buildings kept alive'

A £1m loan has  been agreed to help preserve the 110-year-old Withington Baths which has been run by the community since 2015.

The loan is to be agreed at £1m and to be repaid over the next 25-years.

The loan is set to help fund the repair job of their roof along with other essential repairs.

The trust which runs the baths also managed to secure a successful Heritage Lottery funding bid of £900k which, alongside an additional £230k from the baths’ own reserves, is expected to meet the total cost of redevelopment.

However, with the current economic climate seeing spikes in construction costs, the trust found itself £1m short for the project, which is where the loan comes in.

Jenny Green, a member of the board of directors, said: “It’s really important and we’re really grateful to the council for the loan.

“Were we expecting it? No, but we are delighted that they have offered it to us.

“The offer came to the board of directors at Withington baths and we were all delighted because we were planning to do the roof anyway. It means we can just do so much more of a complete job.

“So, not expecting it but incredibly delighted that they made this offer to us.”

About Withington Baths

Since the trust’s takeover of the baths more than five years ago, they have continued to grow, with over 2,000 members .

The successful takeover put an end to closure threats after the opening of nearby Hough End leisure centre.

Jenny said: “We’ve gone from strength to strength. We are so grateful to our membership because we aren’t run for profit. So, we are incredibly well supported by people in Withington, west Didsbury, and the students at the university.

“At the moment, we’ve got over 2,000 members, we teach over 800 children to swim after school, and actually we’ve got more people using the facilities at the moment than we did pre-Covid-19.”

Maintaining heritage sites

Izzy Parkin, 23, of Disbury, is studying for a masters in heritage studies at the University of Manchester and a gym user at the baths.

She said: “I think it’s really good. From memory I think the gym is one of the last surviving Victorian baths in the country, so having that financial support to keep its unique building in a good state is really important.

“Personally, I love seeing these buildings kept alive in their restoration and maintenance and I think the building here still provides a service as a gym and pool like it originally did, so financial investment is justified.”

Izzy outlined the debate surrounding loss and decay being part of the heritage of buildings. 

“At one point you have to let some buildings go and you can’t save them all, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are lost in the traditional sense, especially if they kind of keep their existence going through people’s memory and the intangible aspects of the building,” she said.

“The building being there or not won’t affect people’s nostalgic throwbacks to it, so I think it’s a really interesting debate to have and really difficult to pick which building or site should remain and be allowed to decay.”