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Save Bath Place 

Location: UK » West Midlands » CV

Public Assets & the Public Trust…

On the corner of Avenue Road and York Road in Leamington Spa stand two of the finest public buildings in Warwickshire, in every sense of the word. The Old Library (built in 1901) and the Art Gallery (built in 1928) were built in an age when public space actually meant something and there were those among us wise enough to envision, imagine and build them. Both buildings bear the Town Crest upon which is inscribed : SOLA BONA QUE HONESTA which means “That alone which is good, is honourable”

The Old Library currently houses Bath Place Community Venture who act as an umbrella organisation for countless community groups and charities who are in need of affordable space to carry out their activities. It is owned currently by Warwickshire College who were handed ownership in 1999 from the County Council for the sum of £97100. It was built from the generosity of a land grant and funding from the Wise family in 1899 and there exists a covenant on the deed that it should remain in perpetuity as a public building. It is Grade II listed and the College abandoned it in 2003. BPCV moved in after a fire and has spent over £120 000 in preserving what had been grossly neglected.

The Old Gallery is currently undergoing a renaissance as a public Art Gallery run by and for, the community and beyond. It also houses One Nation Studios who work with vulnerable youth and many different & varied musical acts.  It is currently owned by Warwick District Council. It was built in 1928 with public funds. It is also Grade II listed.

Both Warwickshire College and Warwick District Council are currently plotting a deal to offload both of these prized assets to a developer of luxury flats called TAG Exclusive Properties. Despite the fact that they both are in use by up to 800 people a week and cater to some of the most needy and vulnerable among us, the current wisdom seems to be that they would be better off used as flats for a very small number of people.

The three parties named above are complicit in what amounts to theft of the common inheritance and a gross betrayal of the original intention for which these fine buildings were designed and created. The story you will hear is one that is told often these days. They will tell you that they are desperate for the money because the economy has slowed down and grant funding from central government has dried up. They will claim that the only way they can find to raise money is to sell off Public Assets to those with both money and connections.

This is both a false argument and a false economy. There is a term for it and it’s called “Crisis Capitalism”. Essentially what that means is that because money is apparently so scarce, it becomes somehow morally and ethically acceptable to flog off our heritage. What was left to us by our forebears is essentially stolen from future generations. It shows an incredible poverty of public spirit and a desperately tragic lack of imagination from those who are charged with upholding the public trust. It is in short, the height of irresponsibility.

Enter the developer. Their plan is to tear down the inner sanctum of one of the most accessible public buildings in all of Warwickshire so as to make it a more convenient arrangement for what will be at most, 8-10 high end flats. They are also planning to convert the Gallery into a residence ignoring the fact that it has no windows and has been in use as a public gallery in one guise or another for almost 100 years.

How can this be right? How can a town as apparently enlightened as Leamington Spa
even think to let this happen? The entire community must act now to let those responsible for this potential travesty know that it must not happen.

Here is a list of those who will be deprived of support & facilities:

The County Music Service, Spires Youth Orchestra, Springfield MIND, Mediation and Counseling Services (MACS), Warwickshire Probation Service (Community Payback)
Train Brains (Jobseeker Assistance Agency) ,Community Arts Workshop, One Nation Studios, Bromford Support, The Steel Pan Academy, ENRYCH Dancing with Disabilities, The Really Youthful Theatre Company, Teatro Theatre Company, JK’s Young Peoples Dance School, Belles Burlesque, Leamington Pilates, The LeLeche League, The Association of Midland Artists (AMA), BRINK ARTS, Leamington Jelly, Various Inter-Faith Organizations, Heartbreak Productions ,Yoga Anandky & Pregnancy Yoga, The Leamington Asian Mens Group , Leamington Japanese Toddlers Group, Zumba Dance, University of the Third Age, The Young Green Party, The Leamington Community Kitchen (Free Meals every Sunday from Discarded Produce), Warwick University Shakespeare Society, Warwick Oxfam & Amnesty International and many others…

The VeggieTable Café (located in the Old Library) is one of the finest examples of a true community and voluntary led Café in the region. It is staffed by some of the most vulnerable people in Leamington and is known far and wide for it’s commitment to healthy and affordable vegetarian food.

What will happen to all of these people and the many more who come through the doors daily looking for nothing more than a place to belong, a place to feel safe ? These buildings are enjoyed by both young & old, the creative, the compassionate, the curious, the skilled, the employed, the unemployed and the needy…

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