A COMMUNITY group that is campaigning to preserve a historic bathhouse in Carlisle has taken a step forward in its mission after an application to have the building listed was approved.

The Victorian and Turkish Baths in James Street in Carlisle has been listed as an Asset of Community Value by Carlisle City Council.

The Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish baths, which applied for the listing status, said it could buy time to protect the building.

Vice-chair of the Friends Group, Lynn Graham, said: “The decision to list the Baths is a step forward for our campaign.

“Although it won’t stop the building being sold-off to a developer to convert it into flats or a hotel, it would allow us to trigger a six-month moratorium on the sale, during which time we and any potential partner could put together a bid to buy the Baths so that they remain in public use.”

Community groups can apply for any building to be listed as an Asset of Community Value provided its main use further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.

The Friends Group believe the Public Baths could be transformed into a flagship Health and Wellbeing Centre.

Another member of the Carlisle Friends Group, Julie Minns, said they have looked to the success of the Friends of the City Baths in saving the Newcastle Turkish Baths to draw confidence from the move.

She said: “Having got the community listing, the Newcastle Friends sought out a partner who would have the funding and desire to invest in the building.“We know that getting a listing as an Asset of Community Value gives you a little more certainty to start approaching potential partners who would be interested in running the pool and Turkish Baths side of the building if it was put up for sale.”

“Our hope remains - as it has been since the beginning - that we can work with the City Council and, from next May, the [new] unitary authority to develop the building so that it retains what it has always been, which is a public building run for the benefit of local people.”

The Friends group applied for the listing earlier this year amid fears over the future of the Grade II-listed 1884 building after it was decided that the 1970s pool would be demolished as part of a redevelopment project in the area.

In January the Council commissioned Global Consultancy Mott MacDonald to undertake a feasibility study to look at how the building can be retained as a Turkish baths.

The results of the study have not yet been released.

News and Star: The Grade II listed Turkish Baths are one of just 12 still in operation around the UKThe Grade II listed Turkish Baths are one of just 12 still in operation around the UK

Julie added: “We definitely had a nervous couple of months waiting for the outcome.

“We were not certain at all that we would get the listing because it is a council building. On the other hand, it is set down in the process for applying that [the council] would need very specific grounds for refusing an application.”

Carlisle City Council's Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Leisure, Cllr Stephen Higgs, said: "The Victorian Health Suite (Turkish Baths) is an important part of Carlisle’s heritage and we are exploring the best ways to manage the facility after The Pools relocate to The Sands Centre.

“Funding, secured through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, is available to make good the external parts of the Turkish Baths post demolition and to facilitate the refurbishment of the building.

“The Carlisle Station Gateway and Citadels project will regenerate the area around Carlisle Station and the Victorian Health Suite will be factored into any planning. There are no plans to change the Turkish Baths current use and we urge visitors to sample the facilities it has on offer."

A spokesperson for Carlisle City Council said: “It has been decided that the asset meets the definition of community value.

“It will be added to the Community Asset Register with the status of ‘nomination approved’ and will remain on the register until November 25 2026.

“The decision in no way affects the ownership of the Carlisle Public Baths or the right to sell.”

News of the listing came the week before the Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths celebrate ‘Christmas at the Baths’ with a Festive Fair on December 11.

Visitors to the Fair will be able to enjoy seasonal refreshments, find handcrafted gifts and take a spin on the tombola for the chance to over 30 prizes including tickets for Lake Windermere Cruises, the Panto, and the Lakeland Motor Museum.

The Friends are also hosting special ‘Christmas Turk(ey)ish Baths Talks’ during the Fair, giving visitors an opportunity to learn more about the Grade II listed Turkey Baths - one of only 12 still in operation in the UK. 

Tickets are available here