Baths to become business base

Ask Developments has sold Ashton Old Baths to PlaceFirst for an undisclosed sum, paving the way for a £3m conversion into a business centre.

The deal marks empty homes specialist PlaceFirst's debut into commercial property. The developer has put an application in for £1m of European Regional Development Fund aid, which it says has been approved in principle. Further funding is being put in by Tameside Council and PlaceFirst's own resources.

PlaceFirst will transform the iconic Baths, which have stood empty for nearly 40 years, into a 6,500 sq ft business centre for small firms. The building is in the St Petersfield area of the town centre partly redeveloped by Ask before the credit crunch, with NHS offices and a new college delivered.

Ashton Old Baths is a grade 2*-listed building and was one of the first municipal swimming pools in the UK. Listed building consent is required for the new development. The council is expected to grant the consent in August.

Tenants at the new business hub at Ashton (Old) Baths will benefit from flexible tenancies and a range of complementary meeting and networking spaces. A superfast fibre broadband connection will offer significant advantages for digital and new media businesses and tenants will have access to business support services provided by a specialist building operator.

The project is due to start in October 2014, with completion due by summer 2015. A contractor will be appointed by competitive tender.

The centre will be run and operated by a specialist development trust, a charitable organisation made up from local political and business leaders. Profits will be reinvested into the operation of the building and enhancing services for tenants.

David Smith-Milne, managing director of PlaceFirst, commented: "Ashton Old Baths is such an iconic building and we are thrilled to be working on such an exciting project. It will offer a unique working environment, providing the flexibility new businesses need and will be supported by some of the most powerful broadband connections in the country."

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