Sexism row erupts over Turkish Baths

tis. One of the hot room chambers at Harrogate Turkish Baths. 06010420c.
tis. One of the hot room chambers at Harrogate Turkish Baths. 06010420c.

A DECISION to end men-only sessions at the Turkish Baths from next year has been criticised as sexism.

David Collins, 78, who has been visiting the baths for 25 years from his Leeds home, said the move was unfair because the women-only sessions were being continued.

He paid more than £200 in October for his regular sessions, but said if the plans go ahead he would not be returning in the new year.

He said: “I come to Harrogate on the bus every Friday. I also do shopping then and buy presents for my granddaughter, so I probably spend up to £3,000 or £4,000 a year. “That will stop if I stop going.

“To add insult to the injury, over Christmas and the new year, there will be no men’s sessions anyway.”

Men-only sessions are currently offered three times a week - Mondays from 5.30-9pm, and Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-5pm, offering a total of 11.5 hours. Those sessions will now all be mixed, but the baths will continue to offer 23.5 hours of women-only sessions each week.

A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council said: “The gentlemen only sessions have a traditional low attendance – in fact the three a week we hold now is a reduction on what we used to hold.

“The ladies and mixed sessions have a much higher rate of attendance.

“Like all businesses faced with the difficult economic climate, we have to look at our business model to get the best return.

“From January 3, 2012, these three sessions will change to mixed sessions. So gentlemen will be able to come at the same time as now but, as they will be mixed sessions, will have to wear swimwear.”

She said the change would be reveiwed after 12 months, but Mr Collins said by then many of those who currently use the men-only sessions at the baths will have stopped attending.

“I appreciate it may well be the men’s sessions aren’t as popular but certainly on Fridays there has been a reasonable attendance,” he said.

“If that’s how Harrogate Council are going to treat visitors, they aren’t going to keep coming in the future.

“It originally opened as a men-only facility. Harrogate has always been a town where tradition counts and this goes against the grain.”