PROPOSALS by GLL to build 30 flats inside the Victorian baths on Milton Road have been met with a defiant response from the community.

On Tuesday, the Adver revealed that the leisure provider’s future vision for the much-loved Health Hydro included a sizeable residential component.

The firm’s regional manager outlined draft plans that could see half the building gutted - consigning the ‘dry side’ of the site, the small teaching pool, and potentially the Turkish baths, to the history books.

In the two days that have passed since the news broke, more than 180 people have voiced their concerns on our website and via facebook, a petition has been launched urging GLL to think again and a new online group has been established in a bid to ‘save Swindon’s heritage’.

Prominent local historian Graham Carter said: “At what should be an exciting time for Swindon because of various ambitious projects to restore and celebrate the town’s rich legacies, instead 2017 seems destined to be a year when the energy and resources of volunteers like ourselves will need to be spent on defending what we already have.

“We strongly object to the way decisions are made about matters affecting our town and its history, and believe the time has now come for those who value our heritage to stand up and make their voices heard.”

Director of The Mechanics’ Institution Trust, Daniel Rose, echoed the concerns of many and reiterated a long-standing commitment to strive for more effective partnerships around development and community assets.

“The trust has already expressed in the strongest terms our views of this totally unjustified idea,” he said.

“We believe there is a viable, sustainable future for this building in keeping with its heritage and current use. We will present these plans to GLL and Swindon Borough Council in the coming weeks seeking a positive partnership.”

The Health Hydro is well-known as the place where so many Swindonians first learnt to swim, and GLL have expressed a desire to keep the large pool open and running even if the rest of the building is converted to flats.

But those who know the less well-trodden corridors of the building best say there is far more to it than just the outer shell and a swimming pool.

Martin Parry, creator of Railway Town, the recent film charting Swindon’s history, said: “We will hear many superficially appealing arguments along the lines of ‘finding a new purpose would save the building’.

“These new purposes, such as accommodation, will usually entail substantial damage or loss to the internal fabric. Unfortunately not many people will realise how unique the interior of the Hydro is.

“Repurposing sounds innocent enough but would almost certainly mean the destruction of marvellous features.”

The petition on the website attracted almost 250 signatures in its first few hours and can be found here.

Addressing the issue publicly for the first time on Wednesday evening, the leader of the council, David Renard, did not appear to reject the prospect of housing in the Health Hydro outright. 

"GLL has come forward with a proposal," said Coun Renard.

"They need to consult with all relevant parties and produce a sustainable business case before it can be taken seriously."