The derelict Crewe Baths (Google) (1)

Ambitious plans to transform the former Crewe baths into a flagship community centre have been approved, writes Belinda Ryan.

Cheshire East’s southern planning committee was unanimous in approving the scheme, which councillors described as a good news story for the town.

The application, from the Always Ahead Charity, will see the former swimming pool become a community hub.

It will include heritage galleries, shop units, community grocery club, children’s centre, counselling rooms, restaurant, café, terraced seating, rentable space, office spaces, youth spaces and a multi-use hall for conferences, presentations, cinema nights, exhibition spaces and concerts.

Ward councillor Connor Naismith (Lab), who is a committee member but didn’t take part in the decision-making process because he had campaigned for the scheme, told the committee the derelict building had become the hotspot for anti-social behaviour since its closure.

“Restoration of the building has the potential to breathe new life into the whole Valley Park area by making it a hub of activity for the local community,” said Cllr Naismith.

“Not only does the application give us the opportunity to tackle some social problems in that area, it also provides us with an exciting opportunity to enhance the economic social and cultural opportunities available to residents.”

He added: “I’m also particularly supportive of the applicant’s desire to respect and draw upon the heritage of both the site and the wider town in the restoration.”

Cllr Jill Rhodes, speaking on behalf of Crewe Town Council, said the scheme will provide a variety of facilities and jobs which are much needed in this deprived area of Crewe.

“Crewe needs a small concert space for music and other performances, the idea of a small cinema for avante-garde films and films in a variety of languages would assist the cultural diversity in Crewe,” she said.

The Labour councillor said it is essential to retain the art-deco features of the building.

Rev David Edwards, from the Always Ahead Charity, said getting to the planning committee stage ‘represents a huge milestone in a very long and arduous journey towards preserving this iconic building, whilst creating a facility that would support the needs of our community both now and in the future’.

He told the committee: “This development of the site will deliver positive change for Crewe and help tackle high levels and concentrations of deprivation, poor health and well-being in and around Crewe by providing facilities and services that promotes better physical and mental health and well-being and reduces the risk of social exclusion and anti-social behaviour associated with deprivation.”

He said preserving the heritage of the iconic building is central to the development.

“Many have referred to the plans as ambitious and I think that is a fair and appropriate description, as I believe Crewe deserves this level of ambition and it is about time that Crewe, once again, becomes a place of civic pride for the whole community,” he said.

Cllr Steve Hogben (Crewe South, Lab) raised concerns about on street parking on Flag Lane.

Highways officer Andrew Goligher said there were 44 spaces on the baths site so he didn’t anticipate on-street parking issues.

Cllr Hogben, who proposed the application be approved, said: “I strongly welcome this proposal which retains a much valued building in the town.

“It’s re-purposing a building in a really valuable way with a whole series of uses.”

Cllr Anthony Critchley seconded it adding: “It’s great to be able to support another good news story for Crewe.”

(Image courtesy of Google Maps)

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