‘This has gone on for too long’: Community calls on council to refurbish historic building before it deteriorates

A 400-strong community society is urging its council to restore a crumbling Grade II listed building back to its former glory after years of delays.

The derelict Ladywell Baths in Lewisham High Street dates back to 1884. It was closed down in 2004 after it stopped being used as a community centre, and has since become infested with pigeons and vandalised with graffiti.

A scheme to restore and redevelop the Playtower received planning permission from Lewisham council in the autumn of 2022, but works have still not begun. 

Robert Smith, 70, of Chudleigh Road, Brockely, is a member of the Ladywell Society which is currently campaigning to see the building restored.

Robert Smith outside the Ladywell (Picture: Robert Smith)

The local historian said: “As a youngster I learnt to swim in the Ladywell baths. I won a prize for the fastest width in 1965.

“It’s not only been a part of my life but is a piece of social history. The baths were built when people didn’t have bathing facilities themselves – as well as a swimming bath for the community.

“It stands as a monument in local history and how things have changed. If it is left to deteriorate it will be a major disaster.”

Since its closure in 2004 the building has become infested with pigeons and vandalised with graffiti (Picture: Robert Smith)

Last autumn the developer behind the renovation, Guildmore, told the council it would not be able to begin work on the project until it found extra cash. The development plan included a new cinema and housing on the site.

A spokeswoman for the council said:“Guildmore remain committed to the scheme and want to work with the council to identify new funding that enables the restoration of the building, without changing the fundamentals of the scheme.”

Mr Smith said the redevelopment would see the Ladywell restored as a central part of the community, but if it was not completed soon the building could become “damaged beyond repair”.

Mr Smith is urging the council to take action before the Grade II listed building is damaged beyond repair (Picture: Robert Smith)

He said: “The Picturehouse said they would screen locally produced films, we could hold events and it would offer a great boom to the area.

“Gradually we would build up a night-time and daytime economy and there’s a bus stop right outside so there shouldn’t be any issues with parking.

“The delays have gone on too long, we need genuine commitment before it is too late.”

A Lewisham council spokeswoman said: “We are working with Guildmore as swiftly as we can to identify the best way forward.

“This will include looking at new and additional grant funding opportunities. The cinema operator that Guildmore partnered with remain committed and the cinema use remains a key part of the vision for the site.

 “The site remains the council’s responsibility for the time being. We appreciate that this will be frustrating news for the local community and will provide further information as soon as we are able to.”

Pictured top: From left, Mike Keogh and Robert Smith are both members of the Ladywell Society (Picture: Mike Keogh)

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