Future of Ripon Spa Baths hangs in balance as 116-year-old building closes as leisure venue

It was opened by a member of the Royal Family in 1905 and has seen generations of spa-goers and swimmers spend countless happy hours there.

Monday, 8th November 2021, 1:57 pm
Updated Monday, 8th November 2021, 1:58 pm
Ripon Spa Baths.

But Ripon Spa Bath's long history as a much-loved leisure venue has now come to an end.

The Grade II listed building - which was the last of its kind to open in England - closed on Sunday with its staff now being transferred across to a new swimming pool set to open at Ripon Leisure Centre on 8 December.

If and for what use the baths will reopen to the public will depend on the outcome of a sale by Harrogate Borough Council which recently announced it had found an unnamed bidder for the building.

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However, the sale has not been a straightforward one so far with concerns being raised that the venue could lose its community use before Ripon City Council successfully applied for it to be nominated as an asset of community value.

This protected status means any sale has been put on hold for six months to allow time for community bids to come forward.

Councillor Andrew Williams, leader of Ripon City Council, said the authority was exploring a "number of options" for the baths which he shared his favourite memories of.

He said: "My mum used to swim in the spa baths as a child in the 1940s and has happy memories of being able to swim all afternoon on a Saturday for 4 pence.

"She has less happy memories of jumping off the top diving board onto the head of one of her friends.

"I remember learning to swim at the spa baths in the 1970s and many local residents will I am sure have memories of the spa baths."

He added: "We must now ensure that happy memories can be created in a new era of swimming in Ripon at our new pool.

"Ripon City Council are continuing to explore and evaluate a number of options regarding the future use of the spa baths site and we remain committed to working to ensure that the site continues to provide facilities for local residents.

"We want to ensure that the listed front of the spa baths is returned to its former glory as part of any new use for the site."

Councillor Williams previously said he held positive talks with the unnamed bidder but added the city council wanted to "keep all of our options open" and had asked to be considered as a potential bidder itself.

Harrogate Borough Council has always insisted it has been open to any offers for the venue which was opened as a spa by Princess Henry of Battenberg in 1905.

It was more than 30 years later when the swimming pool was built to the rear of the building which is known for its terracotta-clad frontage and gained listed status in 1980.

The new swimming pool and upgrades at Ripon Leisure Centre were due to be completed earlier this year but are now facing further delays after the discovery of an underground void revealed the need for further groundworks.

These works are likely to lead to a six-month closure of part of the venue, although the opening of the new swimming pool will not be affected.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter