Saturday, July 18, 2009

update on Sparkhill baths and Moseley Road baths

Since July 2008, the Sparkhill swimming baths have been closed. As of June 2009, the gym and sauna have been closed.

First of all an explanation as to why Sparkhill baths are permanently closed:

Sparkhill baths were opened in 1931. Looking at its structure it appears to have been first erected as a steel skeleton, with concrete,bricks and roof materials used as infill. The vertical parts of the skeleton were embedded in glazed bricks.

At somepoint in the 1970s, the very attractive barrel vaulted ceiling in the baths were covered by a suspended ceiling – I can only assume this was done to save on heating costs. The glazed brickwork below this ceiling was covered in plaster..

Last July, one of the tiles in the suspended ceiling fell off into the 30metre pool. Tests on the tile revealed it to contain asbestos. Since, the tile could not be easily put back into the ceiling, the decision was then taken to strip the building of any asbestos. The stripping of the asbestos not only revealed the original Art Deco decorations, but also significant cracking in the building brickwork. Further examination work was then done to understand what was causing the cracking.

These have revealed that chlorine has soaked through the brickwork and heavily corroded the vertical steel struts which take the weight of the roof. The vertical steel struts have rusted to such an extentant that we can not guarantee the structural safety of the building during a heavy snowfall or high winds.

What next?

We now have two options as to the way forward with these baths – restoration or rebuild. I am informed that rebuilding is the cheaper option. The reason the restoration work costs so much is that the floors on the main pool also need replacing; embedded steel rods in the floor have corroded and cracked the surrounding concrete floor plate in numerous places.

Taking all of this into account, it was decided at the Council Cabinet meeting on Monday 13th July, to agree to kickstart the process of rebuilding Sparkhill baths. The replacement pool will be 25metres long, as is standard for all modern baths.

Over the Summer, a new Sparkhill baths will be designed and a business case put together to financially support this rebuild. It is hope to put an outline of a business case to Cabinet in September. The present estimated date for re-opening Sparkhill baths is now early 2012 and the estimated cost of replacement is between £10million and £12million.
Moseley Road baths
At the Council Cabinet meeting on Monday 13th July, it was also agreed to investigate for implications (cost and logistics) of re-opening Pool 1 in Moseley Road baths.
Pool 1 is the larger of the two pools in this building and has been closed since October 2004.
The proposal is to look at restoration of this pool and nothing else in the building. According to the Historic Conservation Survey that was published in January 2007, the cost of restoring Pool 1 would be between £1million and £2million. This restoration would include the following:
a) remove the spectator gallery and rebuild to original design.
b) cut away sections of the flooring around the pool that is cracked and replace with like
c) repair or replace the terracotta sections on the windows at either end of the pool.
d) replace the longtudinal steel beams in the ceiling.
e) repair roof
f) regrout the pool walls.
There are logistical issues that need to be taken into account; namely can this work be done while Pool 2 is operating. If the entire building needs to be closed, then work will not be able to begin until Sparkhill is rebuilt.
It is hoped to have an outline of a business case to fund this work in September.


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