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Jacob's Wells Baths CAT outcome

by <object object at 0x7fc0b5e5c580> last modified 16/06/2023 01:12 PM

Jacobs Wells Baths Statement, June 2023

As part of our commitment to open working and transparency, we would like to update stakeholders regarding our recently submitted proposal to take on management of Jacobs Wells Baths and reinstate it as a community arts hub for Hotwells.

Following conversation with Bristol City Council in February 2023 to discuss options for the recovery of Jacobs Wells Baths, Bristol City Council (BCC) launched a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) process to formally select a preferred bidder to transform the building.

Trinity submitted a bid that included a fully costed business plan, based on the available criteria published in March. An overview of our proposal to bring the space back into use as a multi-use hub and a full copy of BCC’s responses can be viewed on the links below:

Read our Vision for Jacobs Wells Baths

Read a summary of our CAT application

In spite of indication that Trinity's application scored strongly against the CAT criteria, BCC have written to us in May to state that they will instead be pursuing disposal if we do not submit a joint bid with a second bidder whose legal entity dissolved in March 2023. The wrote to us again in June to ask us to ask us for a further additional bid.

Read BCC responses from May and June.

Speaking in support of Trinity’s plans, Miriam Margolyes – actor and Trinity patron said; “Sadly, arts centres are closing all over the country. It’s something I bitterly regret because I think the arts are the soul of the nation and I think, in our difficult world, people need a place where they can go and learn whatever they want to learn. And talk to each other and have a cup of tea and just relax in a friendly space…I think it’s really important that Bristol should have more of these spaces and that the arts can flourish and nourish us all - because that’s what they do. It’s a beautiful building, and it can be beautiful again.”

Though Trinity were given indication that our bid scored almost full marks, we’ve been told we must back the other bidder with our fundraising and community engagement expertise - even though this is not possible or practical, not least because the legal entity in question dissolved in March of this year.

There are material funds available for a project of this nature and conversations with the community and funders have been hugely supportive. This includes support from a major donor based locally alongside national funders who have granted us permission to apply to their programmes. Sadly we have been unable to progress these applications without Council backing with a leasehold offer in principle.

Emma Harvey, CEO who has been leading Trinity's CAT proposal said;

It is disappointing given the levels of support and investment that the city has made in certain assets that they are the one stakeholder we've failed to mobilise, even though we only need their support with a leasehold offer in principle and not any funding.

We recognise the difficult position local authorities face in trying to balance budgets. However, this is a classic catch-22 that only they have the power to break - we are simply unable to progress planned grant applications to the next stages and this leaves us without a realistic prospect of success given that the building is currently uninsurable for reinstatement value in its current condition. This presents a real problem for that site given its condition and listed building status.”

With specific funds coming with strict deadlines our window of opportunity to save this building is at risk of closing, unless we can mobilise support from BCC. And by support, I don't mean money - I just mean a letter from someone in charge to says, "yes, we support this proposal". It's really, sadly, that simple.

Fidel Meraz, Trustee for Trinity and Board lead on the Jacobs Wells plans said;

The Board of Trinity expresses its disappointment with the response from BCC. Although both bids may share similarities, they also present meaningful qualitative differences. Trinity is putting forward a long-standing track record of heritage asset conservation and management, a robustly backed-up preliminary plan, and a vision and mission for the project compatible with its charitable objectives, making its proposal incompatible with being merged with a more commercial one.

We have approached BCC for clarity regarding their decision and have requested sight of their assessment and scoring against the published CAT criteria, so that we may seek to understand more clearly their rationale.

We would like to give thanks to all those who have supported us in our work so far in shaping a vision for a community and cultural hub for Hotwells, including local funders who have generously committed their support in principle to enable us to take the chance on this once in a lifetime opportunity. As always, we welcome a conversation with relevant BCC decision makers in order to find a way forward to safeguard this invaluable civic and cultural asset in line with One City objectives.

We will continue to take advice where available and liaise with all stakeholders regarding a positive outcome. We are still committed to progressing our proposal, which we believe to be the strongest plan for building recovery and reinstatement of Jacobs Wells Baths as a community hub for the city.

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