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Spare us from covering up, say members of historic spa

More than 750 sign petition against changes at Bayswater facility

10 February, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

The operators of Porchester Spa say they want more mixed sessions, where swimwear should be worn

A HISTORIC spa is facing an uprising from members over plans to introduce more mixed-sex sessions and a new “cover-up” policy.

More than 750 people have signed a petition to save Porchester Spa in Bayswater – which offers “shmeissing” massages and lets members go nude on single-sex days – after it announced refurbishment plans and changes to the way the leisure service is run.

Operators Everyone Active say having single-sex sessions “limits availability” and they want more mixed sessions where swimwear should be worn.

Christopher Silvester, who has been using the spa for 12 years, said: “In the relaxation area there are about 35 beds for people to lie, sleep and rest between and after treatments and steam sessions, and to relax and interact socially in that space. Their plan is to make it into a cafeteria restaurant area with table service, which means we would have to wear swimwear. Nobody really wants to do that as it goes against the spirit of being in a steam room or sauna.”

He added: “Neither the men nor the women who go there want more mixed-gender sessions. People from all different walks of life, all different age groups, classes, religions are represented. It is very diverse and democratic.”

The changes are part of a £750,000 investment that would go towards new treatment rooms, a new sauna, new furniture and an overall upgrade to facilities. While users welcome the renovation there are many details they are unhappy with, such as an upgraded restaurant in the relaxation area.

The petition said: “We do not wish to see the Porchester Spa turned into a bland metropolitan spa.”

It also referred to “misconceived changes of use” and lack of consultation. The baths date from the mid-1920s, and were built within the Grade II-listed Porchester Centre in an elaborate design with mahogany, marble, glazed brick and teak, at a time when public washrooms were being introduced across the country.

Cllr David Harvey, cabinet member of environment, sports and community, at Westminster Council, said: “No decisions about the running of the Porchester Spa, including proposals around mixed-gender sessions, have been taken.

“People can have their say on the future of the spa as part of our consultation which is open until February 28. We look forward to meeting local people, including existing spa users and those who may use the refurbished facilities in the future, and listening to their views.

“The £750,000 investment in the refurbishment of the Porchester Spa is a great opportunity.

“We want the refurbishment to celebrate the heritage of the spa while investing in its future. This work will form part of a £9million investment in leisure centres across Westminster through the council’s contract with Everyone Active.”

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