Locals furious as buyer of Haggerston people’s baths demands 2 more storeys

HaggSun©DA15:© david.altheer@gmail.com Haggerston Baths (1903), Whiston Road, Hackney London 260515
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Four storeys: what Castleforge, the investor in Haggerston Baths, first said it planned, and below, the six it now demands Hackney allows it to build

showing surrounds (Queensbridge Rd is to right of drawing)
The present complex in Whiston Road, which on the right, eastern side side meets the north-south Queensbridge Road

THE BATTLE to save the swimming pool in the Haggerston Baths buildings has been lost. The hall that accommodates the 15m pool will never again echo to the splashes of leisure swimmers and the squeals of excited children.

The struggle now is to save the the west end of the grand Edwardian buildings from the erection of six above-ground floors rather than the four that locals were led to expect.

It would be easy to argue that even four floors would destroy the look of the Whiston Road E2 5BN facade designed for the people of Haggerston by architect Alfred Cross (1858-1932).

© Hackney Archives?
Exemplary Edwardianism: from the left (as you see the drawing) of the Classical-style portico, the facade will be removed and replaced by 4 storeys — at least

Haggerston Baths Ltd (HBL), a company created by private-equity firm Castleforge Partners, is, however, insisting the council let it add the two floors because otherwise “the appraisal would be damaged” and HBL could not “move forward with the project”.

Castleforge won the tender for the 250-year lease of the venue in 2017 to develop it as a “multi-faceted workspace” (which Castleforge now says means only offices, affordable workspaces and a café).

The council has already spent millions on saving the baths from complete dereliction over two decades and  thought it had passed on the problem of what to do with the collection of crumbling buildings.

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Facing life next to a light-blocking tower: Niall Cowley, right, and fellow campaigner Jason Smith

Castleforge/HBL’s demand has not gone down well with locals. Niall Crowley is one of about 20 people living near the baths who together devised an online survey.

He lives in Swimmers Lane, by the baths. On Twitter he urged everyone worried about the “six-storey office block” to fill in and put their views over in the survey. Crowley told Loving Dalston: “We are concerned about the potentially destructive effect of a huge commercial development in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.

“People find it galling because the building is something that has always belonged to and been used by the community.”

Haggyship: derelict pool in Haggerston Hackney LON 120313 © david.altheer@gmail.com
The Haggy ship sails above an empty pool

The protest movement that had sprung up was very much an “on the ground” thing, as residents in the immediate area talked to one another, especially since the start of Covid-19 lockdown on Thursday 23 March 2020.

His partner, Jason Smith, said that two extra stories would make the proposed office block “tower over the baths and nearby residents”.

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville tweeted to @LovingDalston and others: “I’m sure you’re aware of the full multi-year, open and transparent process that led to [the] decision and involved residents: https://hackney.gov.uk/haggerston-baths.

“There was eventually sadly no viable way of funding the reopening of the baths (roughly £20/25m-plus) either directly or through partnership.”

Castleforge told Loving Dalston: “We are committed to ensure the proposals make a positive contribution to the local community.”

David Altheer 050520

You can see the planning application, no 2020/0357, at Hackney council’s planning search page and, if you wish, fill in the locals’ survey.

HaggyBath©DA13:© david.altheer@gmail,com derelict pool in Haggerston Hackney LON 120313
Bath time? Locals once relied on public baths and boilers to keep themselves and personal effects clean. A swimming pool pool was a bonus

HaggBathsArt©DA16: Sculpture reference to Haggerston Baths ship symbol in a nearby housing development Hackney London 2016 © david.altheer[ at ]gmail.co
In dubious taste? Sculpture in a nearby housing development references the Baths ship symbol
* Backstory: Sell Haggerston heritage says HackneyHackney washes its hands of heritage site; Lido panic claim by Hackney council; Hackney pulls plug on Haggy Baths hopes; Hiring a lido contractor is not going swimmingly; Hackney flooded with enquiries; Hackney council drowning at deep end; Haggy to be a pub?

All pictures on this page are © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com, apart from Crowley-Smith pic, are all for sale for commercial reproduction (free to registered charities).

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2 thoughts on “Locals furious as buyer of Haggerston people’s baths demands 2 more storeys

  1. Disappointing response once again from Mayor Philip Glanville — but hey — no surprise there. Mr Glanville seems unaware that Hackney council has two distinct roles in relation to this building: firstly, as the local planning authority and secondly (and in my view more importantly) as the freeholder of the building.

    As the local planning authority the council will have to consider the application in accordance with relevant planning laws and regulations and it may be that current planning practice will require it to approve the application to add two floors.

    However, as the freeholder, the council will have (or should have if it drew up the lease in an appropriate way) almost total discretion on whether or not to permit the building of the additional floors.

    Hackney could perhaps demand a substantial premium — ie, more money — to agree to this extra development or could insist that the case for reopening the baths be re-examined in light of the potential extra revenues to be produced by the additional floors.

    Either way, some of the additional benefits of these extra floors could be shared with the local area — but only if the council chooses to exercise its rights as the freeholder.

    Mr Glanville could, and perhaps should, enlighten us about the council’s rights as freeholder of this building and how Hackney as freeholder intends to respond to the application.

    1. Interesting to see how this building renovation and future plans pan out in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the move to working from home. I would have thought all the decision-making by Hackney council (the site freeholder) should be re-evaluated. 

      This needs a sensitive scheme for a community-focused residential and historic area, rather than office development that would affect existing residents.

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