Social enterprise helps community splash out on baths

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A COMMUNITY body which is taking over the running of a historic Leeds swimming pool has received a £75,000 boost.

The Friends of Bramley Baths organisation is preparing to take over management of the only remaining Edwardian bathhouse in Leeds. A campaign to save the baths was launched last year when the council proposed to cut its opening hours, raising fears about the pool’s long-term future.

Bramley Baths is to be run as a not-for-profit, community-led social enterprise, and will open for 49 hours per week, providing access to swimming, gym facilities, fitness classes and social activities.

The £75,000 worth of support, obtained through the new Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy programme, includes £25,000 of grant money.

The Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy Programme, worth £1.4m, was launched last month and targets investment at social enterprises.

Part-funded over three years by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the scheme aims to provide access to grant and loan finance, specialist advice and pro bono support from the private sector.

The programme has been set up by the Community Foundations in Leeds, Calderdale and South Yorkshire, which channel money donated by local individuals and businesses to community groups in disadvantaged areas, working together with the Sheffield-based Key Fund, which itself provides investments to social enterprises.

While the funding is currently coming predominantly from the ERDF pot, the idea is that the programme will in the future act as a broker between social enterprises and private investors.

John Battle, chair of Friends of Bramley Baths said: “With the backing of Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy programme, we can take another step forward to realise the next stage of this exciting community-led project, that will provide a much-needed resource to people of all ages, offer affordable activities that help people become healthier and happier, and develop training opportunities and work experience to directly benefit local residents.”

The Friends of Bramley Baths will officially take over the running of the facility on December 22.

It has taken on the 1904 Grade II listed building and its associated swimming pool and gym on a 25-year lease.

In Yorkshire and Humber, there could be more than 3,500 social enterprises plus many more charitable organisations which have some trading activity or commercial enterprise arm, according to Leeds City Council estimates. For Leeds city region, the estimated figure is at least 1,400 and for Leeds about 700.

Social enterprises are estimated to employ 800,000 people across the UK.