Swimmers still waiting for a dip in Birmingham’s Moseley Road Baths have been left disappointed – after the jinxed pool was hit by a new setback.

The 105-year-old Balsall Heath building has been closed for 15 months and was due to re-open at the end of last month.

But the date has now been pushed back to the start of April after lead-based paint was discovered flaking from the ceiling and falling into the pool.

And an even longer closure is on the horizon with an £8 million scheme to re-roof and rewire the entire building, which will close the complex for two years.

City leisure boss Coun Martin Mullaney was due to ask for £3 million towards the scheme at a Birmingham City Council cabinet meeting on Monday.

That will be subject to securing Heritage Lottery funding of £5 million.

“The baths are a national treasure,” said Coun Mullaney. “They are a local facility but also, from a heritage point of view, they are of national importance.

“This £8 million will stop the rot – the whole building is rotting away.

“Water gets into the structure when it rains, rotting the woodwork and rusting the metalwork.

“The pumps and the boilers are on their last legs and this will put new energy-efficient boilers into the building to keep it running for 25 to 100 years.”

But experts estimate it will cost around £20 million to bring the baths up to a modern standard and make them fully functional.

Moseley Road Baths are Grade II* listed and the oldest of only three such pools currently operating in Britain.

In the last ten years the site’s two pools have been periodically closed for repairs as wear and tear has taken its toll.

The larger pool closed in October 2003 due to a leak and structural problems with the spectator’s balcony. The smaller pool was then forced to close in December 2010 for a rotten lintel to be replaced above the fire exit door to one pool.

This closure was only meant to be for six weeks – but it has remained shut after workmen found asbestos in the basement.

Contractors finished that work and a re-opening date of the end of February was pencilled in – only to be shelved when the flaking paint was discovered.

But it is estimated another £9 million will need to be found to re-open the other pool where the balcony is in danger of collapse and is being held up by scaffolding.

A full report on the long-term options for the complex is due to be presented to the cabinet on March 19.

Residents and pool users formed a group, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, to campaign to keep the complex open.

Their belief is that the baths are not a museum but a working building.

A spokesman said: “We have campaigned hard over the past few years to turn the building into a fully functioning and viable community facility.

“But its future is now very much in doubt with calls to transfer ownership from local authority control and convert the building, or at least large parts of it, to uses unconnected with swimming or fitness.

“The option of a replacement baths in Balsall Heath seems unrealistic for reasons of both finance and a shortage of available land.”

www.friendsofmrb.co.uk 
www.moseleyroadbaths.co.uk

FACTFILE
The baths opened in October 1907 at a cost of £32,924.

More than a century on, they are one of only three Grade II star-listed swimming pools still operating in the UK.

The others are the privately-owned RAC Club in London and the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace.

They opened at a time when houses did not have bathrooms so, as well as providing swimming pools, they also offered washing facilities.

Today Moseley Road Baths have the only complete set of 46 original pre-war washing – or “slipper” – baths with the attendants and ticket kiosks still intact.

Other historic features are dressing boxes, a 98ft-long Gothic renaissance red brick and terracotta lavishly embellished and decorated frontage, possibly the only surviving steam-heated drying racks in a British swimming baths and the original 45,000-gallon capacity cast iron cold water storage tank.

Until 2004, they were also the only public washing baths in the city.

The baths were also on the Victorian Society’s 2009 list of the ten most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in Britain.