Unanimous backing for £4m baths transformation

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Staff reporter

THE £4 million revival of Chester’s landmark Victorian city centre baths has been given the go ahead.

Partners are now being sought to transform the listed Union Street building into a state-of-the-art swimming and leisure centre.

The project received unanimous approval at a meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s executive on Wednesday.

Residents can look forward to a refurbishment of the swimming pools and changing rooms, a new gymnasium and the restoration of the Sir John Douglas-designed exterior to its former glory.

Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture and recreation, said the council was eager to bring the baths back to life.

He said: “We are excited about it because it is a golden opportunity to go to the market and to collaborate with partners who share the vision we have got to create this centre of excellence. We want to sympathetically bring this iconic building more up to date.”

The city baths opened in 1901 and replaced Chester’s floating baths, where Cestrians bathed in tanks moored at the Groves.

The floating bath broke from its mooring and ended up on the weir during a storm in 1899 and was eventually sold and broken up three years later.

When the Union Street building opened, the baths boasted two pools, a vapour bath and a slipper bath where those without hot and cold running water could bathe.

Chester Swimming Association currently looks after the day-to-day operation of the building and the baths are used by Chester Swimming Club and schools.

Cllr Parker said the modernisation project was part of the council’s £29 million investment in health and leisure facilities, which also includes the proposed sports village in Ellesmere Port and the Memorial Court Lifestyle Centre in Northwich.

The council is now exploring the possibility of the baths being run in partnership with a commercial operator.

Officers are working on identifying potential partners on the proviso of ensuring the baths remain affordable for residents.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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