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.
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.