Regeneration scheme planned for the White Rock Baths

The old White Rock Baths
The old White Rock Baths

A £401,000 scheme, including a cycle hub and cafe, aims to breathe new life into the White Rock Baths (WRB).

New business Lifecycle is to manage the refurbishment of WRB once essential preliminary work has been carried out at the site, vacant since 1997.

Lifecycle plans to operate a cafe and bike hire business, with additional activities such as workshops, cycle training for children, and a children’s bike area.

The Foreshore Trust is to reimburse £170,000 of the cost, as WRB is on the charity’s land, and Hastings Borough Council a further £170,000 from its area based grant budget.

It was agreed at a meeting of the Charity Committee on Monday (December 12) that Lifecycle would take up a 10-year lease on the core part of the building, which includes the structure on the upper promenade, and the floor below, plus the eastern court area, and occasional use of other areas.

Further options for development would be explored once the business was up and running.

This was one of four options for the historic seafront site put before the committee.

The other options were to delay the decision, giving the opportunity to others to put forward proposals, to undertake above-ground improvements only, or to do nothing aside from essential maintenance. Committee chairman, councillor Paul Barlow said that from this proposal, the Foreshore Trust, which owns the land on which the WRB is situated, would get about £400,000 of building work for about £170,000 of investment.

He added: “I am loath to delay things when we have an organisation willing to work with us.”

The Charity Committee unanimously voted in favour of the Lifecycle proposal, despite the Coastal User Group being of the view that other businesses should be given the opportunity to put forward proposals.

But Philip Oakley, owner of The Admiral Benbow, in London Road, St Leonards, spoke out against the plans after the meeting. He said: “I have no vested interest in the White Rock Baths but believe that this is a key building in terms of size and location so its future use is key to Hastings revival.

“It should have been properly marketed but wasn’t.

“Consequently the LifeCycle proposal has gone forward with no other serious options on the table.”

A member of the public had raised the issue that Hastings Borough Council may have ownership of the White Rock Baths rather than the Foreshore Trust. This is thought to be unlikely by the council, but independent legal advice is due to be taken before the plans go ahead.

White Rock Baths first opened in 1874 as swimming baths, before being turned into an ice rink in the late 1970s, and finally closing its doors to the public in 1997.