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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 29 January 2009
‘It’ll be like swimming in St Pancras’

New Journal’s exclusive look behind the scenes of the Kentish Town Baths revamp

FROM behind the scaffolding and weatherproof wrapping obscuring Kentish Town’s best-loved building, there is the odd clatter, a bash and a bump.
Now the New Journal can reveal in pictures what is going on the other side of its Victorian walls.
The £25.3million refurbishment of the Kentish Town Sports Centre in Prince of Wales Road – perhaps better known as the Prince of Wales Baths – is gathering pace and the message from those in charge is clear: “We are on time and on budget.”
The New Journal’s requests for a sneak preview were answered on Friday with a tour of the corridors underneath the main building, currently wet with muddy sludge and debris. Hard hats, goggles and high-visib­ility vests are essential kit. There is still a chance something could fall from the weather-­battered roof, although regular swimmers aware of the pool’s recent his­tory might joke that this was always the case in the final days before it closed for refurbishment.
But there has been no sign of slouching since the project was agreed by council chiefs last year.
Inside, the Grafton Pool (pictured on page 3) has been completely dug out so that a new heating system can be installed, while the Willes Pool is lined with hardboard to protect the historic tiling. The roof, still dark from wartime bomb blackout paint, is to get a brand new look so that rays of natural light will burst through.
Liberal Democrat leisure chief Councillor Flick Rea said: “It will be like swimming in St Pancras Station when its ­finished.”
There is less to report from the learner pool, currently a heap of broken bricks. The front entrance, meanwhile, is also a pile of rubble.
Leisure chiefs admit the project represents a major challenge – the preferred adjective is “brave”.
Camden is one of only a small number of local authorities attempting to bring an old Victorian swimming pool back to life.
Cllr Rea said: “We are aware of what this building means locally. I can’t wait to see it open – I know it will be just an amazing place when it does. I’m so glad we have gone ahead with it and we’ve managed to keep all three pools in doing it.”
The building has already been cleaned by experts without using chemicals, and stone­masons are working on repairing the ornate facade. The project will be helped by the use of existing boreholes on site to supply water to the pools.
Fiona Dean, assistant director for culture at the Town Hall said: “The building’s natural life­span had come to an end but by doing this we are extending it for another generation.
“We have worked to minimise the risks and we are currently on schedule and on budget.”

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