The Olympic spirit dies in Bradford
Despite this being an Olympic year in which all our citizens have been encouraged to undertake sport and a valiant campaign by the Manningham Pool Action Committee, the Victorian Society, Manningham residents and JUST West Yorkshire to keep Bradford's unique, historic Edwardian swimming pool open to the public, Bradford Council went ahead and the closed the baths on 8th July 2011 due to a decision to cut costs. Two months later the water from the pool was drained and the building has since been broken into three times.
The decision was made following a shambolic failure by Bradford Council to carry out an Equalities Impact Assessment as part of its legal obligation. There appears to have been no consideration given to young people or the 12 primary schools in this deprived neighbourhood, many of them with children on free school meals. The plans to close the baths will save Bradford Council £119,000 in refurbishment costs whilst at the same time £200,000 was committed to upgrading the Lido in Ilkley, one of the most affluent districts in Bradford. There are currently proposals for a further £10 million scheme to knock down and rebuild the Lido swimming pool in Ilkley. The distance between Manningham Baths and the new proposed Ilkley pool is approximately 12 miles and the likelihood that Manningham residents can access this facility is fairly remote. Manningham pool had been used by swimmers for last 107 years.
Local residents were left outraged and upset with the cost cutting measure which has left the community devastated. On the 8thof July 2011, the BBC covered the closure of the baths and reported that Ian Dungavell, director of the Victorian Society, said: "It's a crime to waste a great historic building without fully investigating ways of keeping it open."
Manningham Baths were designed by Bradford City architect Frederick Edwards (1863-1945), and opened in 1904. English Heritage's list entry says: 'The building is a skilful composition, with well detailed exterior stonework achieving a clean, uncluttered exterior which complements other public buildings in the immediate vicinity... The completeness of the interior is exceptional, including original changing cubicles, decor and reception area, and unusual detail such as ceramic spittoons along the sides of the pool.'
There are only over 50 listed Victorian and Edwardian pools in the country with only 13 in current use after the building on Carlisle Road was shut. Many residents have described the pool as a national treasure. Pool buildings are notoriously hard to find new uses for and the longer Manningham Pool lies empty the harder it will be to save.
Manningham experiences multiple problems in areas such as health, unemployment, crime, deprivation and access to facilities. Therefore closure of facilities like the Manningham baths has a massive impact on the local community.
The Manningham baths is up for auction for a mere £50,000 by Bradford Council. Where will this money go? What will happen to the site? What benefit will the sale of the building bring to the local community? These are important questions that local councillors need to answer to their electorate.
Kash Ahmed - Racial Justice Network Coordinator