Future of Northfield Baths – The Facts


All political parties try to grab headlines and present stories in a way that makes a political point. But there are bottom lines. That is why it is just not right to manufacture stories to discredit your opponents and scare local people in the hope of getting votes for yourself.  Unfortunately, that seems to be what at least some Conservatives are trying to do in Northfield right now.

They have launched a campaign to “Save Northfield Baths.” The only problem is that there is no threat. Indeed, even despite the cuts being imposed on Birmingham by David Cameron’s Government, Birmingham City Council plan to create better swimming facilities for local people than there are now. Here are the facts:


Opposite the famous Black Horse pub, the Swimming Baths is a landmark building in Northfield. But the building is old. Maintenance is costly and what can be offered there is limited. Just compare it to, for example, the new pool and leisure centre in Harborne or Cocks Moor Woods in Kings Heath.

All this is why the future of the current Northfield pool and leisure centre building has been a subject of concern for many years now. I was involved in discussions about this a decade ago when there was an examination of whether the pool could be replaced with a new leisure centre closer to Victoria Common. That was during the last period of Labour administration on the City Council (i.e. before 2004).

Unfortunately, the package envisaged was not thought to be financially feasible at that time, so the decision was made to go for a refurbishment of the current pool instead. Although understandable under the circumstances, everybody knew that this would only buy a decade or so for the current pool.  Sooner or later, further decisions would be needed for the longer term.

We are now at a point where decisions have to be faced. And the climate in which they have to be made is a lot worse than it was ten years ago.  Support for leisure facilities in Northfield and elsewhere are being hit hard by the severe cuts being imposed on Birmingham by the Conservative-led Government.

On top of that, before they left office in 2012, the Conservative-led administration which used to run Birmingham ended Council funding for community leisure facilities in schools – Turves Green, Colmers and Frankley are just three examples. As a result, several leisure centres serving local people were either scaled down or threatened altogether. The fact is that people in Northfield do not have the quality of leisure facilities they deserve, and parts of the area are very under-served altogether.


All this means that further temporary fixes are unlikely to be much use.  Labour took over Birmingham Council just under two years ago and, along with your local Councillors, I have been discussing how we can improve leisure services in the Northfield area for the long term – despite the financial straightjacket which the Government has put on our City.

The City Council has agreed that there needs to be a major pool and leisure centre serving people in the Northfield constituency.  Another temporary refit of the existing pool building is unlikely to provide the quality facility that is needed and therefore a new build is the most likely option – probably something similar to the pool that was opened a few years ago in Harborne.

The precise location of such a facility within the Northfield area is not yet agreed but it clearly needs to be as accessible as possible to local people, as well as taking into account the location of other leisure developments, such as the new pool being built at Birmingham University.

The Council has also agreed that, barring unforeseen breakdown, the current Northfield pool and leisure centre will remain until any new one is in place. That obviously would not be possible if the new pool and leisure centre was to be built on the current site and is another reason why it makes sense to look for a new location.

The reality is that, despite the Government’s cuts, the City Council has agreed to give leisure in Northfield the priority is has been denied for so long. Conservatives in the area may not like it, but we are talking about the biggest investment there has been in leisure here for a generation.


All the above was explained by Council Leader Sir Albert Bore to a recent meeting of Birmingham City Council, when he outlined the Council’s intention to replace Northfield pool with a new facility “in that area of South Birmingham.”

Sadly, presumably to scare people about a threat which does not exist, Conservatives in Northfield have doctored Sir Albert’s statement to claim he referred to a replacement facility being found in the “South Birmingham area”.   Only a couple of words different but, of course, the meaning changes dramatically.

“The South Birmingham area” could mean anything as far away as Solihull – which may be home to the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Northfield but would hardly be much use to most people living in Northfield!

Quite how the Conservatives justify doctoring quotes from other people is a matter for them. What is important is that local people are not taken in. If the current pool is replaced by a new facility, it will be built in the Northfield area of South Birmingham.  There is no doubt about that.         


If Northfield does get a new pool on a new site, questions will still remain about what would happen to the current building. In my view, the current Northfield pool building is an important part of the heritage and character of central Northfield and, if it does not house a pool in the years to come, every effort should be made to retain it as an accessible facility of significance for the local community. I am already urging the City Council and others to consider that issue alongside any plans to relocate the pool.

I’d like to know what you think about the issue. Please email richard.burden.mp@parliament.uk to get in touch.

Recent Posts

Richard Burden

Avatar photo

I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Get in touch

You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.