The transformation of Moseley Road Baths and Balsall Heath library has received a major boost with the allocation of £15.5m of Levelling-Up funding.
This latest funding success will enable the first phase of an ambitious £32.7m masterplan to transform the Grade II* Listed Baths and Library, building on the successes of a ground-breaking collaboration between local, national and international organisations to safeguard the future of Moseley Road Baths.
Moseley Road Baths and Balsall Heath library are historic masterpieces at the heart of the vibrant Balsall Heath community in Birmingham. Moseley Road Baths is an internationally significant Edwardian public swimming baths that was saved from closure thanks to local campaigning and the coming together of a ‘coalition of the willing’ to imagine a different future. It now hosts a popular programme of swimming and wellbeing activities run by the community, although the building remains in desperate need of restoration. The neighbouring library, built eleven years earlier than the baths, is one of the council’s most well used services in the city, providing a range of vital facilities for local people – but this 125-year-old building is also in need of repair and improvement.
A coalition of organisations – Moseley Road Baths CIO, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, Birmingham City Council, Historic England, World Monuments Fund, led by the National Trust – has developed a long-term vision to restore and reimagine these buildings so that they continue to serve local people as well as providing a new destination which will appeal to tourists. The regeneration of the baths and library will unite and transform these spaces into a heritage-led wellbeing, leisure and cultural destination.
The Levelling-Up grant will be used to fund capital works to the baths and library, providing a catalyst for further investment into these buildings and the wider Balsall Heath area. Initial works to the baths include essential repairs to the building fabric to prevent further decline as well as restoration of some of the historic interiors and the installation of lifts to the upper floors so that more of the building can be accessed. There will also be major improvements to the library including a physical connection to the baths to help boost the range of facilities offered by the buildings.
In addition to the Levelling-Up grant, funding will be made available from Historic England, Birmingham City Council and World Monuments Fund to initiate a 2.5-year programme of capital restoration.
Cllr Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care, said: “I’m so pleased the project has received this vital funding which will secure the investments already made and fund much-needed work to the baths. The project has always been about so much more than the building though; it supports Balsall Heath community with people at its heart – run for and by local people, but open to the world.”
“This news changes everything for us,” added Karen Leach Chair of Moseley Road Baths CIO. “It has been such a challenge operating swimming within this amazing but crumbling building with its leaky roofs and antiquated boilers and filters. Suddenly the restoration we’ve collectively been working towards is becoming a reality. Not only does this mean a future for swimming but also for the baths’ and the library’s crucial role in creating livelihoods in the heart of Balsall Heath.”
Joe Holyoak, Chair of Friends of Moseley Road Baths said: “The Levelling-Up grant is an enormous step forward in the progress towards a fully repaired and fully functioning baths, progress that was started by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths in 2006. It will enable a significant increase in the benefits in health, education and recreation which the combined baths and Balsall Heath library can bring to the local population in Balsall Heath. As such, the grant represents a big contribution towards the achievement of the aim of the Balsall Heath Neighbourhood Plan, Birmingham’s first and so far only neighbourhood plan – and a better life for Balsall Heath residents.”
Lucy Reid, Assistant Director, Operations (Midlands and East Region) at the National Trust, said: “This is such welcome news for Balsall Heath and for the city and is a brilliant testimony to the power of collaboration and working together. It’s a milestone for all of our work to save and bring all of Moseley Road Baths back into use for local people and for Birmingham. We’ve still a way to go – but this is such a brilliant next step. We have been proud to lead and be a part of this brilliant ‘coalition of the willing’– which is an important part of the National Trust’s commitment to Birmingham and our work in urban environments.”