Schmeissing fans no longer steaming after meeting with local authority

Devotees of the traditional massage say Westminster Council is listening to their concerns over the redevelopment of Porchester Baths in west London


Devotees of schmeissing — the heavy-duty steam massage  — have been reassured about the practice's future at London’s Porchester Baths at a meeting with Westminster City Council.

Westminster and a commercial developer, Everyone Active, had put forward redevelopment proposals for the baths, which have heritage status as a Grade II listed building. The boiler, the source of the “thick, soupy steam” deemed necessary for schmeissing, dates from 1929 and was considered for replacement under the proposals.

But the schmeissing devotees — many Jewish — have expressed concern about the plans.

Journalist Matthew Norman, who attended the meeting earlier this week, said it had gone “bizarrely well”.

He said councillors had taken note of the objections and had now decided to cancel the originally scheduled planning permission. Instead, it will seek a renewed application for planning permission in the summer for some of the proposed changes to the baths.

MP Karen Buck, herself a long-time user of the baths, attended the meeting, together with schmeisser campaigner Christopher Sylvester, Councillor David Harvey, the council’s cabinet member for environment, sports and community and representatives of Everyone Active.

Mr Norman said that the council appeared to be listening and taking the fears and concerns of the schmeissers into account in what he called “a victory for goodwill and common sense”.

After the meeting, Cllr Harvey said: “We had a really useful discussion and I think spa users can see that our evolving plans are going to lead to a Porchester Spa that will work better for everyone while remaining true to its heritage.

"We’ve heard some detailed and helpful feedback on a range of points that we have worked hard to incorporate. We responded to feedback ranging from the need to keep the changing facilities on the ground floor too ensuring we leave sufficient room for schmeissing in the revised spa layout. We were pleased that the revised plans were well received.

“Though the initial consultation has formally ended, we are continuing to have productive conversations with stakeholders groups and we will be presenting our revised plans to the community later in the year. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed their time to this consultation.”  

As urgent repairs necessary for the hygiene of the baths take place, Porchester Baths may briefly close. The die-hard schmeissers may have no recourse but to go to the only other place left in London where schmeissing takes place, Canning Town.

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