Having been closed by the council in 2009, Byrne Avenue Baths, a 1930s Grade II listed swimming pool complex, has at last been saved thanks to the campaign of a committed group of local people.
Local people and staff were dismayed when a notice was pinned to the door of the much-loved baths saying the pool had shut in its 75th anniversary year. The closure soon prompted a community campaign to see them re-opened, and the council has now agreed to give community ownership to a group of local residents, the Byrne Avenue Trust.
In an area of high social deprivation, the Trust aims to restore and re-open the building as a thriving community space and sports centre offering opportunity to everyone in the community, while preserving the history and heritage of the Baths.
They hope to have dance, Zumba and Tai Chi at the Baths, as well as a wide range of activities and sports including football, netball and badminton. It will also be available for use by community groups. The Trust hopes to run a time bank, which would see people volunteering their time to help with the running of the building in exchange for activity sessions or refreshments in its cafe. The aim to create a truly inclusive community space.
Jane Richards, Coordinator of the Byrne Avenue Baths project, said: “I’m Birkenhead born and bred and I love these baths. I used them as a child and they hold wonderful memories. They’re well-built and beautiful. I got involved in this project because I wanted to give something back. This area is hugely neglected with high unemployment, social deprivation but a real sense of community and buoyancy. There’s a real need for something in this area and the baths provide this.
“There will be opportunities for jobs, volunteering and work experience; sports and health activities giving local people the opportunity of a healthier lifestyle within their own area; along with social events to help reduce social isolation for all ages, including older residents.”
The building has fallen into a poor state of repair so full restoration will take several years to complete, and the work will be done in stages, gradually opening sections as they’re ready. The roof has been repaired and further improvement work is due to start shortly.
Council officials have been very supportive and will contribute £350,000 towards the cost of their refurbishment. The Trust has been granted a 99-year lease and will be responsible for the building, with phased financial support from the council’s community fund.
Ben Harrison, Chair of Trustees, said: “Like many people on the Wirral, I love this building. It was an integral part of our lives, and many of us have enormously fond memories of time spent there. Now we have a chance for it to become the heart of Rock Ferry as it was for generations.”
Peter Sherlock, Trustee, said: “Byrne Avenue Baths has been a sleeping beauty for a decade. We have the most spectacular jewel in the heart of our community. Together we can make her shine like the brightest diamond.”