Nepal group dives in to rescue pool

The Nepal Scotland Association is the preferred bidder for the baths
The Nepal Scotland Association is the preferred bidder for the baths
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THE new owners certainly have a mountain to climb.

A disused Victorian swimming pool is set to get a new lease of life by being filled in and reopened as a Himalayan Centre.

Dr Bell’s School baths in Great Junction Street, Leith, closed in 2009 after the city council discovered its ceiling had become dangerous. Now the Nepal Scotland Association hopes to buy the building from the council and reopen it for cultural and social events for a range of communities.

Association secretary Gopal Lama said the group had already secured funding to buy the Grade B listed building and now had preferred bidder status.

The organisation is setting up a new limited company called The Himalayan Centre to run the project, and plans to hold a series of open meetings throughout the design phase to ensure local people are involved.

It hopes to submit a planning application in April and, if the project gets the go-ahead, open a year later. The pool area, which dates from 1896, is part of Dr Bell’s School, built with an endowment from educationalist Dr Andrew Bell.

In 2006, much of the school building was converted into flats and a family centre, but the pool building was retained by the council and used for classes by primary schools and community groups.

Mr Lama said: “Luckily, the council’s been quite supportive. The cost of building was not that high – less than £100,000 – but it needs £300,000 of work.”

It is hoped that a third of the remaining funding will come from members of the community, a third from grant funding and a third from bank loans.

Mr Lama said the roof needed replacing, but he hoped to turn the building into an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient building.

He added: “There will be a cafe and a bar and multi-shared office space. We want people from all communities to come and use the space.

“Initially it’s a bit nervewracking, but it is very exciting.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that the Nepal Scotland Association is the preferred bidder for the former Dr Bell’s swimming pool site.”


Educationalist Dr Andrew Bell was born and educated in St Andrews but his links with Leith began in the early 1780s when he officiated at the Episcopal Chapel there. In 1787, he travelled to India, where he served at a military school and orphanage.

He founded the Madras schooling movement, where clever older pupils tutored younger students. He later returned to the UK, where his methods became popular. By the time of his death in 1832, they were in use at more than 10,000 schools.

He endowed the school in Leith with £10,000 in 1831, and the pool was added in 1896. In 2006, much of the building was converted into flats but the pool was retained by the council. It had to be closed in June 2009 because the ceiling had deteriorated.