Ripon Spa Baths sale takes step forward as mystery bidder found

The sale of Ripon Spa Baths has taken a step forward after Harrogate Borough Council revealed it had found a preferred bidder for the 116-year-old building.

However, the possible future use of the building remains unknown as the bidder can not be named due to “reasons of commercial confidentiality”, the borough council said.The baths – which was the last of its kind to open in England in 1905 – was put up for sale for an undisclosed sum in February as the borough council said it will no longer be needed when a refurbishment of Ripon Leisure Centre is completed later this year.

The sale sparked concerns that the baths could lose its community use, which prompted Ripon City Council to successfully apply for the venue to be nominated as an asset of community value.

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This protected status means any sale has now been put on hold for six months to allow time for community bids to come forward.

Ripon Spa Baths

Councillor Andrew Williams, leader of Ripon City Council, said he and other councillors have held talks with the preferred bidder which has “interesting” ideas for the future of the baths.

However, he added the city council wanted to “keep all of our options open”.

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He said: “We have had a meeting with the bidder and found their ideas interesting. But we need to keep all of our options open which is why the city council has triggered the second stage of the community asset provision which affords us up to six months to decide whether we would wish to submit a bid ourselves.

“We wish to work in partnership with the preferred bidder to see how their proposals can be further developed.”

Coun Williams, who previously raised concerns that the sale was being “rushed through” by the borough council, also said it was regrettable that there was a need to apply for the building’s protected status just to buy more time.

He added: “We had hoped to work in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council and approached them on several occasions only to hit a brick wall. The only route left to us was to go down this one and it is sad that we have had to do it.”

Harrogate Borough Council has repeatedly said it has been open to any offers which come forward for the building, either through advertisements which ended in June or via the community bidding process.

Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, councillor Graham Swift, deputy leader of the borough council, also said it had been “open and transparent” about the sale.

Meanwhile, the multi-million pound upgrades at Ripon Leisure Centre were due to be completed in November, but this could now be later in the year.

This is due to Covid and construction delays, including the discovery of an underground void at the site.