Call for council to save Doncaster's historic St James' Baths

St James' Baths site.
St James' Baths site.

Heritage enthusiasts are calling for Doncaster's historic St James' Baths site to be saved - after the council revealed plans that could pave the way for its eventual demolition.

The Grade-II listed Waterdale building dates back to 1932 but has fallen into a dilapidated state since closing its doors in September 2013.

Margaret Herbert.

Margaret Herbert.

Doncaster Council is now planning to carryout structural investigation works at a cost of £300, 000 to see if any of the building can be salvaged.

The authority will use this information to decide on what is next for the future of the landmark.

A report, due to go before councillors next week, said options that would then be considered could include selling it off or applying for it to be de-listed.

The building's current listed status protects it from the bulldozer but when it is de-listed this safeguard would be removed.

Civic leaders at the opening of the baths site.

Civic leaders at the opening of the baths site.

Doncaster Civic Trust, which campaigns to protect historic buildings, praised the council for taking the right course of action to make the building safe - but called for it to be preserved.

Archie Sinclair, honorary secretary, said: "Against this background you can see why the council is proceeding with some care.

"It seems to be doing all the right things at this stage: consulting early with Historic England, providing a budget for getting a thorough examination of the state of the building fabric including hidden structure, getting costs for its repairs and identifying funding for some urgent works, and looking at options for the building's future.

"Government guidance states that any unwanted listed building must be offered for sale for a reasonably low price to any new owner who would be prepared to repair it before its demolition would be considered.

"As to why the building is important, it was listed as a building of special historic or architectural interest, primarily for its Turkish baths. So every effort must be made to preserve it."

He added that the landmark is where many Doncaster people learned to swim and so are "fond of it, or attached to it, and they don't want to witness the loss of a landmark building."

Margaret Herbert, Chairman of the Grand Theatre Trust, which has long campaigned to save the listed entertainment venue, said that while she is "all for saving our great buildings" she also raised concerns about the cost of getting the baths re-opened.

She added: "It is a great shame about the Turkish Baths but again how much will it cost to get into working order again."

The council report said the works will focus on repairing the roof above the old Turkish Baths - formerly one of the last remaining in use in the country - which has collapsed.

Mayor Ros Jones has previously said the council simply cannot afford to invest the £2 million needed to fully restoree the baths.

The report is recommended for approval and is due to go before the council's cabinet at the Civic Offices on Tuesday, August 15, at 10am.