Article published: Friday, February 1st 2013
Demonstrators intend a repeat tomorrow of last weekend’s mass baths protests with a march on Saturday against the planned closure of Withington Leisure Centre.
And Save Levy Baths campaigners will tonight honour their threatened pool and library with home-made blue heritage plaques celebrating their memories of learning to swim and read.
Swimming pools in Withington, Levenshulme, Miles Platting and Moston are scheduled to close as part of Manchester City Council’s plans to shave £80m off its budget in the next two years due to government cuts.
Libraries in Levenshulme, Fallowfield, Burnage, Miles Platting, New Moston and Nothernden will also shut their doors.
Replacement pools are planned for Levenshulme and Hough End in 2015, and Beswick in 2014.
The council argues a smaller number of modern baths can save money and increase usage, although it will have to compensate the private company Serco hired to operate its leisure centres for early closure of Broadway and Withington Baths.
Hundreds marched last weekend against closures in Withington and Levenshulme, and the campaign to save Withington Baths has won support from the trade union Unite, Paralympic swimmer Marc Woods and Coronation Street actor Sue Cleaver.Save Withington Baths Campaign organiser Sian Astley said, “It was really heartening to see that local residents care so much about the baths and the gym.
“We had some very positive suggestions – from legal challenges to the possibility of running the baths as a people’s co-operative. We aim to stop the closure of Withington Leisure Centre in March and keep this much-loved facility open for our community.
“We’re asking everyone to support us in our letter-writing campaign and petition, as well as turning up for the demo on Saturday.”
Levenshulme’s library and swimming pool already host official blue English Heritage plaques honouring Ethel “Sunny” Lowry, the first woman to swim the English Channel, and celebrated architect Norman Foster.
Lowry trained at Levenshulme baths, while Foster found inspiration in a copy of Le Corbusier’s “Vers un Architecture” picked up in the library.
A publicity release by Levenshulme Community Association said, “Statements like ‘I learned to swim here’ or ‘books from this library helped me to learn to read’ are the kind of facts that may well be recorded on the ‘Blue Plaques’.
“They are more modest achievements perhaps than those of “Sunny” Lowry and Lord Foster, but who knows what the children and young people currently using the baths and library might achieve as a result of their visits?”
The council’s consultation period ends on 13 February ahead of a crunch budget decision on 8 March.
Everyone is invited to make their own “Blue Plaques” (a piece of cardboard, painted blue and with a couple of holes for string or ribbon for a gathering at Levenshulme Library and Baths tonight, Friday 1 February at 6pm prior to an open campaign meeting at Levenshulme Inspire at 7pm.
Saturday’s march will take place at 12.30pm from Withington Baths. The route will travel down Wilmslow Road to Withington Library.