Give us a say over Bristol North Baths 'car crash', say residents

October 30 2015

THE Bristol North Baths has to be saved, and the public needs to have a say over its future.

THE Bristol North Baths has to be saved, and the public needs to have a say over its future.

This is the plea from local resident James Savage, who has set up a petition in response to further delays in the building’s development.

According to Mr Savage, a trained building surveyor who works in property management, he has been monitoring the project closely, and says that developers Chatsworth Homes have not been seen on site in over three weeks.

A deadline was set by Bristol City Council for Chatsworth Homes to finish the work this autumn, but the project – which is to encompass a medical practice, pharmacy, hydrotherapy pool, library and flats – is still far from complete.

This is despite Chatsworth Homes director Kevin Batt saying that it was “near completion” in the summer.

It has been over two years since the work – costing over £3million – was due to be finished on the building.

Mr Savage believes that the future of the former baths now needs to be open to consultation, with members of the public having the opportunity to share their wishes for the building.

He said: “If the council takes the building back and sells it, it would be a lost opportunity.

“It is the only non-faith based and publicly owned building in Gloucester Road, and it has huge potential.

“I think that the council needs to hold a consultation with local people, to find out what they would like to see happen with the building.

“It would be great to have somewhere that the whole community could use, somewhere that is sustainable and can generate enough income.”

Bishopston Medical Practice

The baths building was previously earmarked for the Bishopston Medical Practice, but it has since pulled out due to changes in cost of leasing the surgery.

The practice, in Nevil Road, is now faced with finding an alternative venue due to the landlord wanting the building back. The surgery will be operating from porta-cabins until a new location is secured.

Linda Buczek, a partner at the surgery, announced in a statement: “This extremely difficult decision has been made as a result of the 24 plus month delay, in which time our funding has been significantly cut, and the developer’s offer of space, design and costs has changed.

“The BNB offer no longer meets our requirements and as such we are considering locating everything at Nevil Rd, made possible by the use of porta-cabins.

“This is a short term solution to buy us some time, but requires planning permission which can take 8 - 10 weeks. We will be working with NHS England and Bristol CCG to find alternative premises and will keep you updated.

“Part of this proposal, compounded with resource issues, means we will be closing Nevil Road each Friday with effect from 2nd October 2015. Logan Road surgery will of course remain open as usual for all of your needs.”

Ms Buczek says that the practice would like to reassure its patients that they are committed to finding a location in the local area that fulfils all of the requirements of a modern day practice, and that it feels “very positive” about their long-term future.

‘Not walking away’

Physiotherapist Keith James, who will be leasing the hydrotherapy suite in the baths, says that despite the lengthy set-backs, he will not be pulling out of the development.

Mr James, who has spent around £36k as a result of the delays, said: “I will not be walking away from this project. I have spent too many years and enough money waiting for this new hydrotherapy pool, and I would be absolutely furious if it fell through.

“Hopefully, things will be resolved quickly, but I can’t see anything happen for another six months.”

Residents who attended the recent Bishopston Society AGM also heard from Tracey Wintle, supervisor of Redland, Clifton and Cheltenham Road libraries.

She told those in attendance that the new Bishopston Library, which is being built next to the baths, is not scheduled to open until spring 2016.

'Car crash scheme'

Bristol mayor George Ferguson has expressed his frustration over the delays, referring to the project as a "car crash".

He said: “I am extremely frustrated by this car crash of a scheme, that was started long before I came into office.

“If it had been possible I would have pulled the plug on it long ago. Chatsworth Homes committed to completing this development by October 2013, a whole two years ago.

“Concerns were being raised over the quality of the work, meaning the only responsible thing to do was to step in and make sure there were no major structural problems or anything which would cause long term issues.

“Surveyors found several issues of concern and put in place a programme of fixes and improvements, including a clear timeline which set out our expectations.

“I am appalled by the performance on this site where the developer has repeatedly failed to deliver on his promises and I have instructed officers to give urgent consideration as to where we go from here.

“It is vital that we protect the council’s investment and give best chance to achieve a satisfactory outcome.”

The Bishopston Voice has contacted Chatsworth Homes director Kevin Batt for comment, but no response has been received.

James Savage's petition can be found at: epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_core/community/petition/3285.