COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New life for Erdington Baths

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association

After almost six years of perseverance and the tireless support of our community and stakeholders, we were delighted to finally secure the £4million needed for the first phase of works that will breathe fresh life into the former Erdington Baths.

The Baths are almost a century old, and have stood empty since they were closed in 2014. Many residents have already shared their treasured memories of growing up and visiting the Baths with family and friends, and I’m certain we will hear many more as the project develops.

With work expected to start later in the year, the first phase will see funds invested into the overall fabric of the building to restore the roof, undertake essential repairs, create a main reception area, and convert the pool hall into a co-working space, studio pods, events and community space.

Situated between Erdington Library and the Erdington Skills Centre, it is a great opportunity to create a Learning, Skills and Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Erdington.

Complex projects such as these are only possible with the support of many stakeholders – our community, local businesses and partners. We want to thank Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority for investing in the project.

We are particularly appreciative of the Council’s leadership for taking this brave decision, especially as it deals with its financial challenges. Mayor Andy Street continued to back the project even against the backdrop of three failed funding bids to government.

The late Jack Dromey and more recently Paulette Hamilton MP have been huge advocates, and Cllr Robert Alden has been on this journey with us right from the outset. Thank you!

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Enterprising Erdington

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
We are delighted that Birmingham City Council has taken the bold decision to invest £2m to help refurbish, and transform the former Erdington Baths into a state-of-the-art Enterprise facility. We’re already turning our attention to the other major funder, the West Midlands Combined Authority to match the Council’s investment, and the signs are encouraging.

So many residents have fond memories of the Baths and we have had huge support from the local community and local businesses to bring this much-loved facility back into use. We remain committed to doing all that we can to make it happen.

As many people know, it is not a straightforward project, given the size, age and state of the building. We have also had to overcome many setbacks, not least, with Erdington missing out on Government investment on three occasions.

Despite this, at Witton Lodge Community Association we remain resolute and optimistic. We have many of the foundations already in place including Planning Approval, expert technical teams, and political support especially from Paulette Hamilton MP and Councillor Robert Alden.

As more and more services move online, we know the physical hubs aren’t the complete answer, and of course we will continue to support our residents to develop their IT skills, none-the-less, we believe this is no substitute for high quality, locally accessible facilities where you can meet and speak to a person face-to-face.

We’re truly fortunate in Erdington, to have many such places including those listed on the Erdington Local ENNS page.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

(Ed’s note: This column was first submitted to the Erdington Local newspaper on 4 September, before the announcement of a Section 114 notice issued by Birmingham City Council.)

NEWS: “A kick in the teeth” as Erdington High Street loses out on millions from Levelling Up Fund

Words & pics by Ed King (image of Paulette Hamilton supplied)

Erdington has once again missed out on millions of pounds to regenerate the High Street, as the Government rejects the latest Levelling Up Fund (LUF) application.

In a surprise announcement made in the early hours of Thursday 19 January, with no warning given to unsuccessful applications, all five of Birmingham City Council’s applications to the LUF were turned down – including the £10.75m petitioned to deliver ‘a transformational scheme’ for Erdington High Street.

Top of the list of Birmingham City Council’s recent LUF applications, the Erdington High Street bid would ‘be used to transform the High Street into a thriving centre, with business incubation space, housing, cultural, leisure and social activities, improved urban realm and physical and social connectivity within the area.’

At the centre of the regeneration of Erdington High Street were plans to support the renovation of St Barnabas Churchyard and the development of a Community and Enterprise Hub at the old Erdington Swimming Baths site – being delivered by Witton Lodge Community Association.

With local politicians and stakeholders reeling from the LUF rejection this morning – which is the second time the ambitious plans for Erdington High Street have been turned down – elsewhere across the county 111 areas will be celebrating their share of the £2.1bn from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

Today’s shock announcement, and complete overstepping of all five Birmingham LUF bids, is the latest defeat in a long battle to secure regeneration funding for Erdington High Street from Westminster – which began with an application to the Future High Street Fund in 2020 and saw further disappointment in the first round of LUF allocations in October 2021.

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton stated: “”I’m incredibly disappointed that, yet again, the Conservative Government have let Erdington down.

“Our funding bid would have brought investment into our community by creating jobs, skills, and infrastructure. The investment would have transformed Erdington High Street to make it a destination again.

“Sadly, Erdington did not receive a single penny from the Tory Government’s 2.1bn fund, despite ranking amongst the top 10% most deprived areas in the country.

“The Prime Minister’s own constituency – one of the most affluent – has received £19m.

“Tory failure and favouritism have been laid bare by this announcement. It’s just another kick in the teeth for our community in Erdington from this out of touch Government.”

Erdington Ward Councillor and Birmingham Conservative Leader, Robert Alden, told: “Over the last few years we have been putting in Future High Street Fund and Levelling up Fund bids and requests to the City Council, that is it is so disappointing that the Levelling Up Fund bid has not been approved.

“However, this is not the end of trying to get funding into the High Street here in Erdington.

“It is vital now that the Government and the City Council invest in our High Street to deliver the plans that residents want to see and we will continue to do all we can to secure further investment onto of the funding already provided by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street”.

Cllr Gareth Moore (Con, Erdington Ward) added: “West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has listened and the Combined Authority therefore put in over £2million to help turn the former Erdington Baths site, under Witton Lodge Community Association, into an Enterprise Hub to support local people into work and to set up businesses.

“Andy Street listened to the people of Erdington it is time that the City Council and the Government listen to the people of Erdington and invest to regenerate our High Street”.

Birmingham was one of three cities across the country that had all of it’s LUF applications turned down by Government, losing out on a total of £82.264m in potential citywide funding.

Elsewhere, Leeds lost out on a potential £120m through six LUF bids – whilst Nottingham had all three of its bids rejected, totalling £57m.

Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward told: “Today’s announcement is a kick in the teeth for Birmingham families who were already struggling to make ends meet after over a decade of Tory austerity – even before the Government crashed the UK economy.

“You cannot level up the UK economy without levelling up Birmingham, so today’s news brings into question the Government’s true commitment to hard-pressed households across this city. It’s now clear that levelling up is nothing more than a slogan.

“These bids would have delivered true change to communities across Birmingham, creating new jobs, improving life chances and restoring pride to our neighbourhoods.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s constituency – one of the most affluent in the country – has received funding, while of the 80 successful bids in England, only half are in the 100 most deprived areas of the country. How is this levelling up?”

The Levelling Up Fund was first announced in the Government’s 2020 spending review, totalling £4.8bn in accessible funding for councils across the country.

Tranche One of LUF allocation saw £1.7bn distributed to 105 projects, including money for Moseley Road Swimming Baths in Balsall Heath and the Soho Loop development on Dudley Road.

Following today’s allocation of £2.1bn in Tranche Two – which saw 525 bids submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in August 2022 – there is now £1bn left in the LUF budget.

Erdington’s Town Centre Manger and head of the Business Improvement District (EBID), John Hodgkiss, who came into post in August 2022, is “remaining positive about the potential of Erdington High Street.”

Mr Hodgkiss told Erdington Local: “It’s incredibly disappointing to hear that the LUF has not been awarded to Erdington, especially in light of the hard work so many have contributed.

“In terms of Erdington High Street, I know that we have so many dedicated stakeholders with one aim, which is to see Erdington prosper and thrive in the future.

“Here at the EBID, we will continue to push on with projects and events to attract greater footfall into the town centre. We will also continue to work hard in attracting new independent and national retailers into Erdington High Street.

“We also commit to promoting the great retailers which we already have on board and further improve the local trading environment for them.”

NEWS: WLCA Enterprise Hub development to get £795,000 from Birmingham City Council

Words by Ed King

Witton Lodge Community Association’s (WLCA) plans to redevelop the old Erdington Baths into a vibrant ‘Enterprise Hub’ are set to receive £795,000 from Birmingham City Council.

Announced today, the City will be allocating over three quarters of a million pounds from its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund – to help repair the old public bath’s roof and allow WLCA to manage operations from the site.

The significant investment from Birmingham City Council follows a recent £2m commitment from the West Midlands Combined Authority, who pledged the money as part of its 2018 brownfield and housing delivery programme.

With further support from Birmingham City Council, the ambitious project – which would create jobs and opportunities for new business in the heart of Erdington – will be part a key of the revised Levelling Up Fund application which could bring millions to Erdington High Street.

As he approved today’s grant, Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward said: “For generations, the baths were a much-loved facility for the people of Erdington, and this is an important step in the efforts to give this historic building a new lease of life right at the heart of the community.

“I’m delighted we are working alongside Witton Lodge Community Association to transform the old baths building on Mason Road and this exciting project is a key part of the overall Levelling Up Fund bid for Erdington High Street, which will bring the community together, support local businesses and improve accessibility to wider employment opportunities for the residents of Erdington.”

Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton, who has worked with the City Council to develop the Erdington High Street Levelling Up Fund bid, added: “This funding is fantastic news. I hope it will kick start our plans for a brand new community and enterprise hub in Erdington run by Witton Lodge Community Association, who do amazing work locally.

“The new hub would bring enormous benefits for local people by providing employment opportunities, helping to develop skills and offering space for small businesses to develop and grow.

“The Council’s decision to help fund this project should send a message to Ministers about how committed we are to transforming Erdington High Street. We want to make the area a destination again, and now we need the Government to back our Levelling Up bid to make that a reality.”

Witton Lodge Community Association Chief Officer Afzal Hussain told Erdington Local: “We’re deeply grateful to the Council for its support and funding to kickstart Phase 1 works on the Erdington Enterprise Hub.

“The funding will enable us to refurbish the roof and entrance area and actively engage local residents, entrepreneurs and businesses to showcase and shape plans on the ambitious project.

“We have already secured funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority and with planning approval also in place, we’re now only waiting on the Government to approve Erdington’s Levelling Up bid. Fingers crossed!”

For more on the new Enterprise Hub visit www.erdingtonbaths.webflow.io