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Bramley Baths proves its value as community asset

Bramley Baths – a community-run bathhouse in Leeds – has been granted a 50-year lease on the building by Leeds council.

The bathhouse, which first opened in 1904, was threatened with closure five years ago as austerity cuts hit local services. A group of residents came together to save the baths and worked with Leeds Council on an asset transfer of the building, which re-opened as a social enterprise in 2013.

In this year’s annual report, published this week, Bramley Baths showed it has proved its worth as both a local asset and business, recording the highest visitor numbers at the facility. Over a 1000 children are learning to swim there each week, and 10 local teenagers have been trained as lifeguards. The facility is now open seven days a week and employs 20 staff. Despite keeping entrance prices low, the organisation has generated a surplus of £63k this year which will be invested back into the business.

As Fran Graham of the Bramley Baths team said in a press release: ‘Many people doubted that anyone in Bramley could run a business, let alone make it better than before. We asked local people why they weren’t attending, what the issues were, and then we addressed them.’

When the community asked locals their reasons for not using the service when it was under council management, they said that the prices were too high, there were not enough public swims, and that the programme of activities was ‘tired’.

The community team worked on a business model that was lean but fair and re-worked the pricing so that local people could afford to visit. It trialed new types of activities such as Bramley Mermaid Club – that appeals to women who dislike traditional exercise – and created publicity that showed real people using the facilities rather than models.

Over the last five years it has held film screenings in the pool, started a community garden, launched a community triathlon club, an aqua ballet class, a hula hoop exercise class….and more.

‘Bramley Baths is going from strength to strength, and we’re really delighted that more people are joining in and finding out how good it is to feel fitter,’ said chief executive Tracy Basu. ‘The next step is to understand what other services people need us to offer, and to make some improvements to the building so that it is a place more people can benefit from.’

John Battle, chair of Bramley Baths said, ‘We’ve proved that as a community we can run a great venue, now we need to be really ambitious for the health and wellbeing of the next generation and involve more people in creating brilliant opportunities through Bramley Baths. Come and get involved.’

Bramley Baths is supported by three key partners – Barca- Leeds, Bramley Elderly Action and Leeds West Academy.

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