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Work finally starts on Restoration winner Victoria Baths

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After more than three and a half years of waiting, work finally looks set to start on the revamp of Manchester's Victoria Baths - winner of the BBC's first series of historic-buildings-in-peril show Restoration.

Manchester-based practice Arca has been named as part of the developer-led team taking on the overhaul of the abandoned 100-year-old pool in Chorlton-on-Medlock.

The move ends years of speculation about the future of the project, which appeared to have stagnated after achieving national fame by landing Restoration's £3 million top prize in 2003.

It is understood that landowner Manchester City Council is on the verge of naming Artisan Ship Canal Developments as the chosen developer to take the complex scheme forward.

One of the first tasks for the design team will be how to make any refurbishment and reuse of the 1906 building stack up financially. The original £3 million cash windfall from the BBC was earmarked solely for the restoration of the Turkish baths - a project which began with the removal of delicate stained-glass windows last June.

According to the development brief drawn up by the Victoria Baths Steering Group, the selected developer's proposals must include the reopening 'for public use of at least one of the swimming pools' and the 'retention of as much of the historic fabric of the building as possible, especially those features identified in the conservation plan as having special architectural or historic importance.'

It is understood that the Artisan/Arca bid was chosen ahead of a number of other developer-led teams, including proposals from locally based firms Hodder Associates and OMI Architects.

One long-term observer said he was delighted that the powers that be have finally come up with a solution to the problem. He said: 'It's taken the authorities a long time to get to this point, and at one stage it looked like nothing was ever going to happen, but at least there now appears to be a glimmer of hope.'

by Richard Waite

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