Summer heatwave could save our lidos

Brightlingsea lido. Picture: Will Jenkins

Brightlingsea lido. Picture: Will Jenkins - Credit: Archant

Sunny weather is a welcome relief for all sorts of companies, but for those in the business of public lidos, it’s a lifeline.

Brightlingsa Lido. Picture: Will Jenkins

Brightlingsa Lido. Picture: Will Jenkins - Credit: Archant

Lidos are experiencing a cultural revival, partly thanks to the balmy weather, and since it opened for the 2018 season on May 25, Brightlingsea’s lido has seen queues at weekends snaking down the road.

• Ways to cool off this summer It has been a huge boost for the Brightlingsea community, whose lido on the seafront has been “limping along, close to closing” for the last four years, according to its manager Will Jenkins.

“Tendring District Council only kept it open each year because of public protests,” he said. Last year, after the “disastrous” season ended early when the pump failed, it looked like the end for the 75-year-old pool – until Brightlingsea Town Council waded in with a subsidy.

Quickly, a community group – Brightlingsea Lido Trust – formed to take it on. “The business plan we put together assumed it would cost £61,000 to really get it up to scratch because it was almost derelict when we took it on,” said Brightlingsea town councillor and trust member Mick Barry. But he admits it was not a business plan which could be easily replicated in any other industry, because it was heavily reliant on contributions from the town’s community – who happily stepped up to the mark.

Iconic diving photo 1947 at Broomhill Lido. Picture: Ray Marshall

Iconic diving photo 1947 at Broomhill Lido. Picture: Ray Marshall - Credit: Archant

“We all worked hard for six weekends – up to 20 volunteers spending four to six hours at a time,” recalled Mr Barry.

The community pitched in to jetwash the pool, paint signs, and build a ramp and new changing rooms.

Doors and windows were replaced at trade prices, thanks to local businesses, and plumbers and structural engineers gave their time for free.

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Mr Barry believes £10,000 was saved in labour costs. “These guys who chipped in had learned to swim there as children, they had that connection to it,” he explained. “I never had to ask anyone twice.”

The revival of interest in lidos has also prompted the refurbishment of Broomhill lido in Ipswich, which opened 80 years ago and is one of 17 listed lidos in Britain and is now set to reopen in 2020.

“We have a whole generation under 18 that have not experienced this wonderful pool, yet lidos are back big time and enjoying a deserved renaissance,” said chairman of the Broomhill Pool Trust, Mark Ling.

“Ipswich as a town has a tremendous sporting pedigree, yet we have seen almost 30 pools in the town (mainly school pools) close in the last 30 years. All being well, the £6.2m scheme will secure a 620% windfall on local taxpayers’ money – and for a facility costing taxpayers to keep closed.”

Broomhill, Ipswich

Broomhill Open Air Swimming Pool was designed by Ipswich engineer E. McLauchlan. Built at a cost of £17,000, it was opened in 1938 boasting eight lanes and a capacity for 2.1 million litres of water, making it one of the deepest outdoor public pools in Britain. It has the last known Wicksteed of Kettering diving stage, incorporating 1,2,3,4 & 5 metre boards.

Facilities include a children’s pool, a grandstand for 700 spectators and changing cubicles for 70 ladies and 108 men. Water was filtered and heated to 21c, before the boilers were requisitioned for World War Two.

After the pool closed in 2002, a group of friends immediately formed, becoming the Broomhill Pool Trust in 2003. “The Trust has worked tirelessly to ensure that this wonderful pool is saved,” said trust chairman Mark Ling.

Janet Smith and Simon Inglis wrote in their book Liquid Assets: The Lidos and Open Air Swimming Pools of Britain: “Broomhill may lack the national profile accorded to Saltdean, Tinside or Penzance, but it is arguably their equal in architectural significance”.

In December 2017, Fusion Lifestyle was awarded a £3.4m grant towards a final scheme of £6.2m to fully restore the pool and reopen it by summer 2020. A fitness suite, heated water to 25c and a restoration to the Wicksteed Diving stage are also included.