Councillor optimistic on historic baths site

The White Rock Baths as pictured in Cynthia Wright's Hurrah for Hastings!
The White Rock Baths as pictured in Cynthia Wright's Hurrah for Hastings!

A LEADING councillor has raised fresh hopes that an historic seafront site could be developed and revealed the council is in talks with several interested parties.

Cllr Paul Barlow, who chairs the Hastings Borough Council (HBC) charity committee, said regenerating the old White Rock Baths was “a priority” and could boost the ongoing improvement of the seafront.

First built in the 1870s and remodelled by visionary engineer Sydney Little in 1931, the baths became a roller rink and an ice rink before it closed in 1997.

Cllr Barlow and his colleagues Cllr Jay Kramer and Cllr Rob Cooke enjoyed a guided tour of the site last week and afterwards Cllr Barlow sounded optimistic about its future, despite the building needing an estimated £10 million investment to bring it all back into use.

He said: “The White Rock Baths are probably the greatest building asset and greatest liability the committee has but there is a massive amount of work required. We have had approaches and there are people we are currently talking to but I can’t go into details.

“I wouldn’t say we are awash with options but there is definitely interest. I am quite hopeful that at least some of the building can be brought back into use.”

Cllr Barlow was shown some of the “major challenges” that had put developers off in the past but he said his committee would do what it can to encourage interest in the site.

“It is a huge opportunity for somebody with lots of space in a fantastic area,” he said. “Even if the committee puts in every penny of the surplus (raised mainly through the seafront car parks) it would take us 30 or 40 years to raise enough money to redevelop it and that’s if we didn’t spend any money on anything else.

“But it is a priority and any barriers we can move out the way for potential investors we will do so, whether that means sorting out the electrics or the sewage.

“White Rock is beginning to look much better than it did five years ago and redeveloping the baths could revitalise the whole area,” he added.

The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust has applied to open a community showroom in an area above the baths and last year hundreds signed a petition calling for the ice rink to re-open.