Bath Place belongs to the community

I was interested to read Robert Collins’ article on July 27 on ‘Stalemate’ no solution for Bath Place. It reported a county council spokesman stating that: “The county council was statutorily obliged to transfer the building to Warwickshire College in the 1990s when the college became independent.”

If that were true, why was the college not held to its legal responsibility to take care of a listed building instead of allowing it to deteriorate disgracefully? Bath Place Community Venture has done sterling work to put in a new kitchen where nutritious meals are served at modest cost and to make some of the building useable for multiple uses by local community organisations and individuals. Given secure tenure, it would rehabilitate the building professionally.

There is also a question of whether the county council should have transferred the building to the college. The building was part of the Wise family gift of real estate assets covenanted for use of the townspeople of Leamington: hence the building was the town library. I remember it. When Warwickshire County Council took over the running of libraries, surely the building still belonged for the permanent use of the people of Leamington town not to the county council to transfer for its own purposes?

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It is time local communities up and down the UK organised to make sure that their owned real estate for community purposes is not lost either to the colonising statutory sector or to development companies: the former being focussed on short-term expediency dictated by successive governments. The latter being focussed on what makes the maximum ‘commercial sense’.

In a Leicestershire village, the presumptive purchaser of a village green space was challenged successfully only because a very elderly resident spoke truth to power because they remembered that it belonged to the village people.

If community assets are grabbed, communities (often those least well-off) lose their community space needed for satisfactory living. Because of the price hype of real estate in recent decades, once neighbourhoods are denuded of their community space/buildings, they will not be able to replace them. And, over time, that is how deprived communities are created. The history of land grabbing is not new: but it is still deeply damaging to society as a whole. - Ruth I Johns, [email protected]